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Lord Milner's Work in South Africa - From its Commencement in 1897 to the Peace of Vereeniging in 1902
by W. Basil Worsfold
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[Sidenote: Krueger urged to accept.]

The offer of the Joint Inquiry was formally communicated to the Pretoria Executive in an eminently friendly telegram[120] from Lord Milner on August 1st. Efforts were made on all sides to induce President Krueger to accept it. Chief Justice de Villiers wrote strongly in this sense to Mr. Fischer,[121] and to his brother Melius, the Chief Justice of the Free State. Mr. Schreiner telegraphed to Mr. Fischer, and Mr. Hofmeyr to President Steyn, both urging that the influence of the Free State should be used in favour of the proposal. The Dutch Government advised the Republic "not to refuse the English proposal";[122] and further informed Dr. Leyds that, in the opinion of the German Government, "every approach to one of the Great Powers in this very critical moment will be without any results whatever, and very dangerous to the Republic."[123] Even the English sympathisers of the Boers were in favour of acceptance. Mr. Montagu White, the Transvaal Consul-General in London, cabled that "Courtney, Labouchere, both our friends, and friendly papers without exception," recommended this course; and that "refusal meant war and would estrange friends." The letter which he wrote to Mr. Reitz on the same day (August 4th), possesses an independent interest, as revealing the degree in which the friends of the Boers in England had identified themselves with the policy of the Afrikander party in the Cape Colony.

[Footnote 120: C. 9,518.]

[Footnote 121: See p. 218 for this letter.]

[Footnote 122: Cd. 547.]

[Footnote 123: Ibid.]

"The essence of friendly advice," said Mr. White,[124] "is: Accept the proposal in principle, point out how difficult it will be to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion as to statistics, etc., and how undesirable it would be to have a miscarriage of the Commission. In other words: Gain as much time as you can, and give the public time here to get out of the dangerous frame of mind which Chamberlain's speeches have created.... Labouchere said to me this morning: 'Don't, for goodness' sake, let Mr. Krueger make his first mistake by refusing this; a little skilful management, and he will give Master Joe another fall.' He further said: 'You are such past-masters of the art of gaining time; here is an opportunity; you surely haven't let your right hands lose their cunning, and you ought to spin out the negotiations for quite two or three months.'"

[Footnote 124: Cd. 369.]

A week later (August 11th), President Krueger received a telegram[125] in which fifty Afrikander members of the Cape Parliament advanced the same argument. The acceptance of the Joint Commission, they pointed out, would provide a way out of a crisis "which might prove fatal to the best interests, not only of our Transvaal and Free State brethren, but also of the Afrikander party." They, therefore, begged his Honour to "lay their words privately" before the Executive and the Volksraad.

[Footnote 125: Secured by the Intelligence Department.]

[Sidenote: Krueger resolved on war.]

But President Krueger, like Lord Milner, had his eyes fixed upon the object. He looked beyond the Afrikander leaders to the rank and file of the Dutch population in the British colonies, with whom he had been in direct communication through his agents for many months past.[126] He knew that any such inquiry as Mr. Chamberlain proposed would expose the flagrant insincerity of the Franchise Bill. On August 2nd he had telegraphed to President Steyn that compliance with the Joint Commission was "tantamount to the destruction of the independence of the Republic."[127] To the Dutch Consul-General[128] he was perfectly frank: "Defeats such as the English had suffered in the war for freedom, and later under Jameson, had never been suffered by the Boers." His burghers were ready to "go on the battue of Englishmen," when he gave the word.[129]

[Footnote 126: It was known to the Intelligence Department that Krueger's secret agents had been in the Cape Colony for two years before the outbreak of war, and that they had distributed arms in certain districts of the Colony.]

[Footnote 127: Secured by the Intelligence Department.]

[Footnote 128: Cd. 547.]

[Footnote 129: The expression "Ons wil nou Engelse schiet" was actually used. See Thomas's Origin of the Anglo-Boer War Revealed, p. 110.]

[Sidenote: Fischer ceases to "mediate".]

The burghers of the Free State could be counted upon with almost equal certainty. Mr. Fischer, a more potent influence than President Steyn, had by this time openly dissociated himself from the "mediation" policy of the Cape nationalists, and was again (August 4th to 9th) at Pretoria. Here he threw himself heart and soul into the work of completing the military preparations of the two Republics. On the 6th he telegraphed to President Steyn that the draft reply was prepared; that it "invited discussion and asked questions to gain time," and that, therefore, it "was not yet necessary to deliberate as to calling together the Volksraad" for the final decision of peace or war. "Military matters, especially artillery," he added, "seem to me very faulty. Care will be taken to make all necessary preparations."[130] Nor did he leave the Transvaal capital until he had settled the details of the invasion of Natal with General Joubert. Indeed, from this time onwards to the despatch of the ultimatum—a document which came, in its final form, from his pen—Mr. Fischer's part in the conduct of the negotiations was second only to that of President Krueger. In all he did he displayed the same reasoned determination to oppose British supremacy in South Africa which he has exhibited since the war in his control of the Bloemfontein Friend. Orders for the inspection of the commando organisation in the Free State had been given before Mr. Fischer had left Bloemfontein; and on his return from Pretoria he responded to Mr. Schreiner's urgent and continued representations of the desirability of inducing President Krueger to accept Mr. Chamberlain's offer, by a request to be informed of any probable movements of British forces. Mr. Schreiner's reply, that the Free State must ask for such information from the High Commissioner, caused him to apply to Mr. Hofmeyr for an explanation of the Cape Premier's attitude. The inquiry produced a notable analysis of Mr. Schreiner's position.

[Footnote 130: Secured by the Intelligence Department.]

"Hofmeyr says," Dr. Te Water telegraphed, "that whatever the Premier's feelings or relations to our people are, he is at the same time a minister of the Crown. As such he has on him claims in two directions, of which he is acquitting himself to the best of his ability. He has no control over the movement of troops. You had better come and have a quiet talk. Meanwhile the Free State should surely refrain from an aggressive step."[131]

[Footnote 131: Secured by the Intelligence Department.]

This well-meant advice was somewhat belated. In reply to a telegram from President Steyn, asking whether it was true that the Imperial Government was going to send 1,000 men to Bethulie Bridge, Lord Milner replied on August 16th, that, "as a matter of fact, no despatch of Imperial troops to the borders of the Orange Free State was in contemplation." But he added that in view of the much more substantial reports of the "importation of large quantities of munitions of war" into that State and "the general arming of the burghers," it "would not have been unnatural, if such military preparations had been responded to by a defensive movement" on the part of the British Government.[132] Indeed, the circumstances which had led to Mr. Fischer's co-operation in Mr. Hofmeyr's "mediation" were rapidly disappearing. The Port Elizabeth Mausers and ammunition were safely through the Cape Colony; a further consignment of Mauser ammunition arrived at Delagoa Bay (August 16th) in the German steamship Reichstag at the very time that these telegrams were passing; and both this and other enormous consignments were forwarded to Pretoria a fortnight later in spite of an abortive attempt on the part of the British Foreign Office to induce the Portuguese authorities to retain them. The possession of an adequate supply of ammunition was a matter of cardinal importance to which, as we have seen, President Steyn had drawn the attention of the Pretoria Executive nearly a month before the Bloemfontein Conference. It was these Mauser cartridges that were wanted especially, since, without them, the new arm—the splendid Mauser magazine rifle—must have been rejected in place of the inferior Martini-Henry for which the Boers had long been provided with an ample reserve of ammunition.

[Footnote 132: C. 9,521.]

[Sidenote: Smuts-Greene negotiations.]

[Sidenote: Boer diplomacy.]

In the meantime the British Government was still waiting for a reply to its offer of a Joint Inquiry. On August 7th the Volksraad discussed the question, and on the 12th a despatch was written by Mr. Reitz refusing the offer on the ground that such a proposal was inconsistent with the independence of the Republic. It was held back, however, until September 1st; that is to say, until the Portuguese authorities had allowed the Transvaal ammunition to leave Lorenzo Marques. Then, as we shall see, it was forwarded in conjunction with a second despatch of September 2nd. The delay was won by a characteristic display of "the art of gaining time," in which, as Mr. Labouchere remarked, the Boers were past-masters. On the same day that Mr. Reitz wrote his despatch (August 12th), Mr. Smuts approached Sir William Greene[133] with the offer of a still further simplified seven years' franchise in lieu of the Joint Commission. When, however, Sir William Greene assured him that the British Government would not accept anything less than the Bloemfontein minimum, he subsequently agreed to an arrangement of which the main items were: A five years' franchise; the workable character of the new law to be secured by the submission of its provisions to the British Agent with a legal adviser; and increased representation in the Volksraad, together with the use of the English language. After communications had passed between Sir William Greene, Lord Milner, and Mr. Chamberlain, these proposals, with certain reservations, were formally communicated to the British Government by Mr. Reitz on August 19th. Two days later a second note was forwarded in which the offer contained in the previous note (August 19th) was declared to be subject to the acceptance by the British Government of two conditions. These conditions—an undertaking not to interfere in the internal affairs of the Republic in the future and a specific withdrawal of the claim of suzerainty—amounted in effect to a formal renunciation by Great Britain of its position as paramount Power in South Africa. In other words, the Pretoria Executive had repudiated the arrangement made by Mr. Smuts with Sir William Greene. Mr. Chamberlain, noticing the material variation between the original offer as initialled by Mr. Smuts and forwarded by Sir William Greene, and Mr. Reitz's note of August 19th, instructed Sir William Greene to obtain an explanation of the discrepancy from the Transvaal Government. The reply was a curt rejoinder that there was not "the slightest chance of an alteration or an amplification" of the terms of the arrangement as set out in the note of the 19th.[134] In these circumstances Mr. Chamberlain telegraphed a reply on August 28th, in which he accepted the original offer, and rejected the impossible conditions subsequently attached to it.[135] The terms of settlement thus proposed were in substance the same as those of the despatch of July 27th, with the exception that an inquiry by the British Agent was substituted for the Joint Commission, and the five years' franchise of the Smuts-Greene arrangement was accepted in lieu of the seven years' franchise of the Volksraad law. The Transvaal reply was a further essay in the same useful "art of gaining time." It was dated September 2nd, and contained a definite withdrawal of the Smuts-Greene offer as embodied in the notes of August 19th and 21st, and a vague return to the Joint Commission.

[Footnote 133: Then Mr. Conyngham Greene. C. 9,521.]

[Footnote 134: C. 9,521.]

[Footnote 135: Ibid.]

"Under certain conditions," wrote Mr. Reitz,[136] "this Government would be glad to learn from Her Majesty's Government how they propose that the Commission should be constituted, and what place and time for meeting is suggested."[137]

[Footnote 136: The despatch was presented to the British Agent, and telegraphed, through the High Commissioner, to the Home Government. Its diplomatic ambiguity was due to Mr. Fischer's influence.]

[Footnote 137: C. 9,521.]

And this with the consoling promise of a "further reply" to other questions arising out of the despatch of July 27th, which the Transvaal Government had not yet been able to consider.

The response to this astute document was the last effort of the Salisbury Cabinet to arrange a settlement upon the basis of the "friendly discussion" inaugurated at Bloemfontein. The British Government, Mr. Chamberlain wrote, had "absolutely repudiated" the claim, made in the notes of April 16th and May 9th, that the South African Republic was a "sovereign international state," and they could not, therefore, consider a proposal which was conditional on the acceptance of this view of the status of the Republic. They "could not now consent to go back to the proposals for which those of the note of August 19th were intended as a substitute," since they were "satisfied that the law of 1899, in which these proposals were finally embodied, was insufficient to secure the immediate and substantial representation" of the Uitlanders. They were "still prepared to accept the offer made in paragraphs 1, 2, and 3 of the note of August 19th," provided that an inquiry, joint or unilateral as the Transvaal Government might prefer, showed that "the new scheme of representation would not be encumbered by conditions which would nullify the intention to give substantial and immediate representation to the Uitlanders." They assumed that "the new members of the Raad would be permitted to use their own language." They expressed their belief that "the acceptance of these terms would at once remove the tension between the two Governments, and would in all probability render unnecessary any further intervention" on the franchise question, and their readiness—

[Sidenote: A definite demand.]

"to make immediate arrangements for a further conference between the President of the South African Republic and the High Commissioner to settle all the details of the proposed Tribunal of Arbitration, and the questions ... which were neither Uitlander grievances nor questions of interpretation"

of the Convention. And they added that if the reply of the Republic was negative or inconclusive, "they would reserve to themselves the right to reconsider the situation de novo, and to formulate their own proposals for a final settlement."[138]

[Footnote 138: C. 9,521.]

The text of this despatch was telegraphed to Lord Milner late at night on September 8th. It was presented to the Transvaal Government on the 12th, with a request that the reply might reach the British Agent not later than midday on the 14th. This limit of time was fixed by Sir William Greene on his own initiative, and it was withdrawn by Lord Milner's instructions, in order that the Pretoria Executive might not be unduly hurried. The Transvaal reply, which was delivered on the 15th, was a refusal to accept the Smuts-Greene arrangement, re-stated by the British Government, as the basis of the franchise reform, coupled with a charge of bad faith against Sir William Greene.

It was a cleverly composed document, which owed its diplomatic effect in no small degree to Mr. Fischer, who had revised it. It was written for publication, since, in Mr. Fischer's opinion, the time had come to write despatches which would "justify the Republic in the eyes of the world"; and with this end in view it contained the suggestion that the British Government was bent upon worrying the Pretoria Executive into war.

"This Government," it explains, "continues to cherish the hope that Her Majesty's Government, on further consideration, will feel itself free to abandon the idea of making the new proposals more difficult for this Government, and imposing new conditions, and will declare itself satisfied to abide by its own proposal for a Joint Commission at first proposed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies in the Imperial Parliament, and subsequently proposed to this Government and accepted by it."[139]

[Footnote 139: C. 9,530.]

[Sidenote: Reinforcements sanctioned.]

The British despatch of September 8th represented the united opinion of the Cabinet Council which had met on that day to consider the South African situation. In sending it, the Government also decided to raise the strength of the Natal and Cape forces to the total of 22,000, estimated by the War Office as sufficient for defensive purposes, by the immediate addition of 10,000 men, of whom nearly 6,000 were to be provided by the Indian Army.[140] The despatch itself, definite in contents and resolute in tone, was the sort of communication which, in Lord Milner's judgment, should have been forwarded to the Transvaal Government after the failure of the Bloemfontein Conference; and the additional troops now ordered out were nothing more than the substantial reinforcements for which he had applied in June. The three months' negotiations had led the Salisbury Cabinet to the precise conclusion which Lord Milner had formed at Bloemfontein. The only hope of a peaceable settlement lay in a definite demand, backed by preparations for war. But to do this in June, and to do it in September, were two very different things. Assuming that diplomatic pressure could in any case have availed to secure the necessary reforms, it is obvious that, whatever prospect of success attached to this course of action—Policy No. 2, as Lord Milner called it—in June, was materially diminished in September. During the interval the British Government had done practically nothing to improve its military position. That of President Krueger had been conspicuously improved. He had carried the Free State with him; he had got his Mauser ammunition and additional artillery, and he had completed his arrangements for the simultaneous mobilisation of the burghers of the two Republics. Even now the military action of the British Government was confined to preparations for defence; for the order to mobilise the army corps was not given until the next Cabinet Council had been held on September 22nd. The spirit of Pretoria was very different. The commandos were on their way to the Natal border before the reply to this British despatch of September 8th was delivered to the British Agent. That was President Krueger's real answer—not the diplomatic fencing of September 15th.

[Footnote 140: The despatch of 2,000 additional troops to Natal had been sanctioned on August 2nd, in response to the earnest appeal of the Natal Government. Hence at this time there were (roughly) 12,000 Imperial troops in South Africa. It is noticeable that, although the despatch only reached Lord Milner on the morning of the 9th, the Cape Argus had contained a telegram, giving an account of the troops warned in India and England, on the evening of the 8th.]

[Sidenote: Violence of the Boers.]

More than this, the three months' negotiations had embittered the relations of the British and Dutch factions in every South African state to such a degree that any compromise of the sort proposed by Lord Milner at Bloemfontein was no longer sufficient to effect a settlement. The moderate measure of representation then suggested would have been rejected now by the Uitlanders as wholly inadequate for their protection, in view of the violent antipathy to them and the gold industry which the diplomatic struggle had evoked among all classes of the Dutch inhabitants of the Transvaal. The particulars of the outrageous treatment, and still more outrageous threats, to which the British Uitlanders were subjected from this time onwards up to the ultimatum are to be found in the Blue-books. As early as the middle of August, when the Smuts-Greene negotiations had just been commenced, Mr. Monypenny, the editor of the Johannesburg Star, was warned that the Transvaal Government intended to issue a warrant for his arrest on a charge of high treason. This intention, postponed during the fortnight of delay won by these negotiations, was carried out on September 1st, on which day Mr. Pakeman, the editor of the Transvaal Leader, was secured, while Mr. Monypenny succeeded in effecting his escape. This indefensible act was followed by a characteristic attempt to disown it, made by Mr. Smuts, the State Attorney, the nature of which is sufficiently exhibited in the following telegram, despatched by the High Commissioner on September 4th to the Secretary of State:

"The charge against Pakeman has been reduced to one under the Press Law of 1896, and he has been admitted to bail. There have been no further arrests. Greene telegraphs as follows:

"Begins.—A statement has been published through the Press this morning by the State Attorney 'that no instructions had ever been issued from Pretoria for the arrest of the editors of the Leader or the Star.' The facts are as follows: On Friday morning the Public Prosecutor of Johannesburg and Captain Vandam, who had come over from Johannesburg to Pretoria, were interviewed by the State Attorney in his office here. In the afternoon these two officers returned to Johannesburg, and arrested the editor of the Leader the same evening, failing to capture the editor of the Star.—Ends.

"There is no doubt that the arrest of both editors was decided by the Government and other arrests contemplated, intimidation of Uitlander leaders being the object. The exodus from Johannesburg is taking formidable proportions. Many refugees of all classes have come to Capetown. In Natal there are an even larger number. A good deal of money is being spent on relief."[141]

[Footnote 141: C. 9,521.]

The violence of the Boers culminated a week before the Ultimatum (October 9th-11th) in the wholesale expulsion of the British subjects still remaining in the two Republics. Assuming that this measure was justifiable on military grounds, there can be no excuse for the brutal precipitancy with which it was enforced. It crowded the colonial ports with homeless and impoverished fugitives; it inflicted unnecessary suffering and pecuniary loss upon inoffensive and innocent non-combatants, both European and native; and it was accompanied in some instances by displays of wanton cruelty and deliberate spite utterly unworthy of a people of European descent.

[Sidenote: Anxiety of High Commissioner.]

Thus it was only when Lord Milner's foresight had been unmistakably confirmed by the stern logic of facts that the British Government ordered these 10,000 troops to South Africa, 6,000 of whom—the Indian contribution—arrived just in time to save Natal from being overrun by the Boers. The three weeks preceding the Cabinet Council of September 8th, at which this decision was arrived at, had been a period of intense anxiety for the High Commissioner. With the spectacle of the increasing activity of England's enemies, and the increasing dismay of England's friends, before his eyes, his protests against the inactivity of the Home Government had become more urgent. In the middle of August he declared that he could no longer be responsible for the administration of South Africa unless he were provided immediately with another military adviser. General Forestier-Walker was then appointed, and after the departure of General Butler the Imperial Government intervened at length to check the further passage of munitions of war through the Colony to the Free State.[142] The Norman, the mail-boat of August 23rd in which Sir William Butler sailed for England, took home the masterly despatch[143] in which Lord Milner explained the position taken up by him at the Bloemfontein Conference, and showed how completely the proposals of the Transvaal Government differed from the spirit of the settlement which he had then invited President Krueger to accept. In doing so he reviewed the whole course of the subsequent negotiations, pointed out the insidious character of the last Transvaal proposal (August 19th and 21st), and emphatically protested against the suggestion that the Imperial Government should barter its rights as paramount Power for "another hastily framed franchise scheme," on account of its "superficial conformity" with what, after all, was only a single item in the long list of questions that must be adjusted before the peaceful progress of South Africa would be assured.[144] On August 28th Mr. Schreiner, when called to account in the Cape Parliament for having allowed, "in the usual course," the Mausers and ammunition for the Free State to pass through the Colony, made the strange declaration that in the event of war—

[Footnote 142: Cd. 43.]

[Footnote 143: C. 9,521.]

[Footnote 144: This despatch was received on September 8th. Cd. 43.]

"he would do his very best to maintain [for the Cape Colony] the position of standing apart and aloof from the struggle, both with regard to its forces and with regard to its people."

Three days later (August 31st) Lord Milner sent a still more impressive appeal for "prompt and decisive action" on the part of the Home Government. The despatch, which was telegraphed, is otherwise significant for its account of the situation in Johannesburg:

"I am receiving representations from many quarters," he said, "to urge Her Majesty's Government to terminate the state of suspense. Hitherto I have hesitated to address you on the subject, lest Her Majesty's Government should think me impatient. But I feel bound to let you know that I am satisfied, from inquiries made in various reliable quarters, that the distress is now really serious. The most severe suffering is at Johannesburg. Business there is at a standstill; many traders have become insolvent, and others are only kept on their legs by the leniency of their creditors. Even the mines, which have been less affected hitherto, are now suffering, owing to the withdrawal of workmen, both European and native. The crisis also affects the trading centres in the Colony. In spite of this, the purport of all the representations made to me is to urge prompt and decided action, not to deprecate further interference on the part of Her Majesty's Government. British South Africa is prepared for extreme measures, and is ready to suffer much in order to see the vindication of British authority. It is a prolongation of the negotiations, endless and indecisive of result, that is dreaded. I fear seriously that there will be a strong reaction of feeling against the policy of Her Majesty's Government if matters drag. Please to understand that I invariably preach confidence and patience—not without effect. But if I did not inform you of the increasing difficulty in doing this, and of the unmistakable growth of uneasiness about the present situation, and of a desire to see it terminated at any cost, I should be failing in my duty."[145]

[Footnote 145: C. 9,521.]

[Sidenote: The crisis in South Africa.]

Indeed, while in England Mr. Chamberlain was remarking (at Highbury, August 27th) that he "could not truly say that the crisis was passed," and picturesquely complaining of President Krueger "dribbling out reforms like water from a squeezed sponge," every loyalist in South Africa knew that the time for words had gone by. On September 6th and 7th public meetings were held respectively at Maritzburg and Capetown, at which resolutions were passed affirming the uselessness of continuing the negotiations and the necessity for the prompt action of the Imperial Government.

Even this did not exhaust the evidence which was needed to persuade the Salisbury Cabinet to make effective preparations for the defence of the British colonies. The Cabinet Council of September 8th had before it, in addition to the Transvaal note of September 2nd, a direct and urgent request[146] for immediate reinforcements from the Government of Natal—the loyal colony which, as Lord Milner had declared, was to be defended "by the whole force of the empire."

[Footnote 146: Received on September 6th. Cd. 44.]

These were the circumstances in which the Salisbury Cabinet did in September what Lord Milner had advised them to do in June. It is impossible to maintain that the British Government had gained anything in the way of political results comparable with the fatal loss of military strength incurred by the three months' delay. The over-sea British did not need to be taught either the justice or the necessity of securing citizen rights for the industrial population of the Transvaal. Before Lord Milner had been authorised to state that the petition of the Uitlanders had been favourably received by the Home Government, the citizens of Sydney had recorded in a public meeting their "sympathy with their fellow-countrymen in the Transvaal," and expressed their hope "that Her Majesty might be pleased to grant the prayer of her subjects." Queensland, Victoria, and New South Wales had all three offered military contingents by July 21st;[147] the other colonies refrained only from a desire not to embarrass the Home Government in its negotiations with the Transvaal. Whatever good effect was produced upon the public opinion of the continent of Europe and the United States of America by the obvious reluctance of the British Government to make war upon a puny enemy, was more than counterbalanced by the spectacle of a great Power prevented from employing the most elementary military precautions by a nice regard for the susceptibilities of its political and commercial rivals. The idea that the sentiment either of the world at large or of the over-sea British would be favourably impressed by the three months of futile negotiations was a sheer delusion. It was the people of England who had to be educated.

[Footnote 147: Cd. 18.]

[Sidenote: The Manchester meeting.]

How little they knew of the actual situation in South Africa, and of the real character of the Boers may be seen from what happened on September 15th. On this day a meeting was held at Manchester to protest against the mere idea of England having to make war upon the Transvaal. Lord (then Mr.) Courtney "hailed with satisfaction" the British despatch of September 8th, which, having been published in the Continental papers on the 13th, had appeared a day later (14th) in those of Great Britain. "It was a rebuke to the fire-eaters," he said, "and a rebuke most of all to one whom I must designate as a lost man, a lost mind—I mean Sir Alfred Milner." And Mr. John Morley, like Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, was convinced that there was no need of any preparations for war; the Transvaal Government "could not withdraw from the five years' franchise." The day on which these words were uttered was the day on which the note containing President Krueger's determination to "withdraw" from the five years' franchise, and his refusal even to consider the British offer of September 8th—hailed with satisfaction by his old ally, Lord Courtney—was handed to Sir William Greene.



CHAPTER VI

THE ULTIMATUM

The British people were destined to pay a heavy penalty for the ignorance and irresolution that caused them to withhold, from June to September, the mandate without which the Government was unable to prepare for war. What that penalty was will be made sufficiently clear when we come to consider the position of grave disadvantage in which the British forces designated for the South African campaign were placed at the outbreak of the war. For the moment it is enough to notice that, just as the real source of the military weakness of England in the war was the fact that only a very small proportion of her adult male population had received an elementary training in arms, so the futility of her peace strategy must be traced to the general ignorance of the bitter hatred with which British supremacy was regarded, not only by the Boers, but also by the Dutch subjects of the Crown in the Cape Colony and Natal. In a world-wide and composite State such as the British Empire, it is, of course, natural that the people of one component part should be unfamiliar, in a greater or lesser degree, with the conditions of any other part. What makes this mutual unfamiliarity dangerous is the circumstance that the control of the foreign relations, and of the effective military and naval forces, of the Empire as a whole, remains exclusively in the hands of the people of one part—the United Kingdom. In the absence of any administrative body in which the over-sea Britains are represented, the power, thus possessed, of moulding the destiny of any one province of the Empire lays upon the island people the duty of informing themselves adequately upon the circumstances and conditions of all its component parts. It is obvious that the likelihood of this duty being efficiently performed has been diminished greatly by the extension of the franchise. Fortunately, however, in the case of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, questions involving a decision to employ the Army or Navy which Great Britain maintains for the defence of the Empire have arisen rarely in recent years. It is in regard to India and South Africa that these decisions have been constantly required; and for half a century past each of these two countries in turn has been the battlefield of English parties. But while the efficiency of British administration has suffered in both cases by variations of policy due to party oscillations, infinitely greater injury has been done in South Africa than in India.

[Sidenote: Attitude of the island people.]

In respect of South Africa, while, speaking broadly, Liberal Governments have sought to escape from existing responsibilities, or to decline new ones, Conservative Governments have sought to discharge these responsibilities with the object of making this country a homogeneous and self-supporting unit of the empire. To persuade the nation to accept a policy which might, and probably would, involve it in an immediate sacrifice both of men and money, was plainly a more difficult task than to persuade it that no need existed for any such sacrifices. The "long view" of the Imperialist statesmen was supported in the present instance by past experience and by the judgment of the great majority of the British population actually resident in South Africa. The home English, remembering that the recall of Sir Bartle Frere had been followed by Majuba and the Retrocession, were anxious to maintain British supremacy unimpaired in South Africa. What kept them irresolute was the uncertainty as to whether this supremacy really was, or was not, in danger. Lord Milner had told them that the establishment of a Dutch Republic, embracing all South Africa, was being openly advocated, and that nothing but a striking proof of Great Britain's intention to remain the paramount Power—such as would be afforded by insisting upon the grant of equal rights to the British population in the Transvaal—could arrest the growth of the nationalist movement. He had pointed out also that the conversion of the Boer Republic into an arsenal of munitions of war, when, as in the case of Ketshwayo, there was no enemy against whom these arms could be turned other than Great Britain, was in itself a definite and unmistakable menace to British supremacy. This, moreover, was the deliberate and reasoned verdict of a man who had been commissioned, with almost universal approval, to ascertain the real state of affairs in South Africa. If the nation had believed Lord Milner in June, the British Government would have received the political support that would have enabled it to make the preparations for war in that month which, as we have seen, it was now making in September.

[Sidenote: The Liberal opposition.]

The agency which, by playing upon the ignorance of the public, prevented the nation from accepting at once the truth of Lord Milner's verdict, was the Liberal Opposition. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the official leader of the Liberal party, maintained throughout the three months in question that no reason existed for military preparation. Mr. Labouchere wrote, on the eve of the war: "The Boers invade Natal! You might just as well talk of their invading England." When Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman maintained that there was no need for the Government to make any military preparations, we must presume that he believed one of two things: either that President Krueger would yield, or that, if President Krueger did not yield, there was nothing in the condition of South Africa to make it necessary for Great Britain to give any proof of her ability to maintain her position as paramount Power by force of arms. The action of the Liberal Opposition resolves itself, therefore, into a declaration, on its own authority as against Lord Milner's, that neither the republican nor the colonial Dutch had any intention of making war upon Great Britain in South Africa, or any resources which would enable them to carry out such an intention with any hope of success. Now, apart from the overwhelming testimony to the utter falsity of this assertion which is afforded by the facts of the campaign, and apart from such documents as the manifestos issued by both Republics upon the outbreak of the war, we possess—thanks to the exertions of the Intelligence Department—a mass of evidence, in the shape of private and official correspondence, which enables us to learn what was actually passing in the minds of the Dutch at this time. On the 15th of this month of September, 1899, the meeting to which we have referred[148] was held at Manchester, with the object, not of strengthening the hands of the Government in the military preparations which they were making thus tardily, but of protesting against the very idea that there was anything in the attitude of the Dutch in South Africa to make war necessary. A perusal of two of these captured documents will enable the reader to judge for himself in what degree this Liberal view of the situation corresponded with the facts. The first is a letter written on September 25th—that is to say, ten days after Lord Courtney was denouncing Lord Milner as "a lost mind" at Manchester—by Mr. Blignaut, brother to the State Secretary of the Free State. It is concerned with the safe arrival in the Free State of a Colonial Afrikander, who has left his home in the Western Province of the Cape Colony to join the republican forces:

[Footnote 148: p. 251.]

[Translation.]

"KROONSTADT, ORANGE FREE STATE, "September 25th, 1899.

"Your wire to hand this morning, to which I replied. —— has arrived.

"I never gave the youngster credit for such plans to dodge Mr. ——, and not to be trapped and taken back. I think he owes his friend —— something for his advice how to proceed. As he is here now, he can remain. I see myself he will never be satisfied to stay there [i.e. in the colony] while there is war going on.

"The only thing we are afraid of now is that Chamberlain, with his admitted fitfulness of temper, will cheat us out of the war, and consequently the opportunity of annexing the Cape Colony and Natal, and forming the Republican United States of South Africa; for, in spite of [S. J. du Toit], we have forty-six thousand fighting men who have pledged themselves to die shoulder to shoulder in defence of our liberty, and to secure the independence of South Africa.

"Please forward ——'s luggage. "J. N. BLIGNAUT."[149]

[Footnote 149: Cd. 420. The Blue-book points out that in the original "a well-known nick-name" is used for Mr. S. J. du Toit.]

[Sidenote: Afrikander aspirations.]

This is not an isolated or exceptional expression of opinion. It is a typical statement of what was in the mind of ninety-nine out of every hundred republican nationalists at this time. The aspirations it contains were proclaimed a fortnight later to the world by President Krueger himself in the boast that his Republic would "stagger humanity." They appeared in the nonchalant remarks made a few days later by Mr. Gregorowski, the Chief Justice of the Transvaal, in bidding farewell to Canon Farmer,[150] who was preparing to leave his cure at Pretoria in view of the certainty of war.

[Footnote 150: As reported by Reuter.]

"Is it really necessary for you to go? The war will be over in a fortnight. We shall take Kimberley and Mafeking, and give the English such a beating in Natal that they will sue for peace."

War, then, for the Boer meant "an opportunity of annexing the Cape Colony and Natal, and forming the Republican United States of South Africa." When Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Mr. John Morley, Lord Courtney, Mr. James Bryce, and other Liberal leaders saw no reason why the British Government should make military preparations—did, in fact, do all in their power to induce the English people to withhold the support necessary to allow the British Government to make these preparations—there were, twelve thousand British troops in South Africa to oppose the "forty-six thousand fighting men who had pledged themselves to die shoulder to shoulder" to secure the independence, not of the Transvaal but of "South Africa".

And what of the Dutch in the Cape Colony? Our second document will enlighten us on this point. It is an invitation, composed in doggerel rhyme, to the Boer forces to invade Griqualand West, signed by the chairman of a district branch of the Afrikander Bond. The date is not given; but as the proclamation under which Head-Commandant C. J. Wessels annexed the districts in question is dated November 11th, 1899, it was obviously written during the first three or four weeks of the war.

[Translation.]

"Dear countrymen of the Transvaal: Brothers of our religion and language: Our hearts are burning for you all: when your brave men fall, we pray to God night and day to help you with His might; we are powerless by ourselves—the English are so angry with us that they have taken away our ammunition, all our powder and cartridges; if you can provide us each with a packet of ten and a Mauser, you will see what we can do; Englishmen won't stand before us, they will go to the devil. There are a few English here, but we count them amongst the dead; for the rest we are all Boers, and only wait for you to move us. Englishmen are not our friends, and we will not serve under their flag; so we all shout together, as Transvaal subjects, 'God save President Krueger, and the Transvaal army; God save President Steyn, and all Free Staters great and small!'"[151]

[Footnote 151: Cd. 420.]

[Sidenote: Ignorance of Liberal leaders.]

But, apart from this profound misconception of the real feeling and intentions of the Afrikander nationalists in South Africa, manifested with such disastrous effect during these critical months—June to September, 1899—the leaders of the Liberal Opposition otherwise displayed in their public utterances an ignorance of this province of the Empire that can only be characterised as "wanton." For what expression other than "wanton ignorance" can be used to describe the habit of mind which permits public men to make statements in direct conflict with the facts of South African history, as established by ascertainable evidence, or to state as facts allegations which proper inquiry would have shown to be untrue? Here again, from a mass of material provided by the utterances which came from the Liberal Opposition leaders on South African affairs, a few instances only can be brought to the notice of the reader, and these in the briefest form consistent with precision. On September 5th Mr. John Morley, speaking at Arbroath, stated that Sir Bartle Frere had "annexed the Transvaal." The present baronet, the late High Commissioner's son, called him to account at once; but it required three successive letters[152] to wring from Mr. John Morley a specific acknowledgement of his error. The evidence which establishes the fact that Frere did not annex the Transvaal is the following statement, bearing his signature and published in February, 1881:[153]

[Footnote 152: Published in The Times, September 30th, 1899.]

[Footnote 153: In The Nineteenth Century for that month.]

"It was an act which in no way originated with me, over which I had no control, and with which I was only subsequently incidentally connected.... It was a great question then, as now, whether the annexation was justifiable."

This was on the 5th. On the 27th a letter was published in The Times in which Sir William Harcourt wrote, in respect of the suzerainty question:

"All further argument is now superfluous, as the matter is decisively disposed of by the publication at Pretoria of Lord Derby's telegram of February 27th, 1884, in which the effect of the London Convention of that date was stated in the following words: 'There will be the same complete independence in the Transvaal as in the Orange Free State.'"

In a letter written on the day following, and published in The Times of October 2nd, the writer of the present work pointed out, among other inaccuracies, that the words actually telegraphed by Lord Derby were: "same complete internal independence in the Transvaal as in Orange Free State." That is to say, before the word "independence" the word "internal"—vitally important to the present issue—was inserted in the original, and omitted in the Boer version, from which Sir William Harcourt had quoted without referring to the Blue-book, Cd. 4,036.

[Sidenote: Its injurious effect.]

The third instance occurred some three months later. Mr. James Bryce, speaking on December 14th, 1899, stated that Sir Bartle Frere "sent to govern the Transvaal Sir Owen Lanyon, an officer unfitted by training and character for so delicate and difficult a task."[154] The following passage, which the present writer subsequently published, affords precise and overwhelming evidence of the absolute untruth of Mr. Bryce's assertion. It appears in a letter written by Sir Bartle Frere on December 13th, 1878, to Mr. (now Sir) Gordon Sprigg, then Premier of Cape Colony.

[Footnote 154: The Times, December 15th. Mr. Bryce was taking the chair at the last of a series of six lectures on "England in South Africa," given by the present writer in the great hall of the (then) Imperial Institute.]

"The Secretary of State has nominated Lanyon to take Shepstone's place whenever he leaves [i.e. when Lanyon leaves Kimberley, where he was Administrator of Griqualand West]. This was not my arrangement, and had it been left to me I think I should have arranged otherwise, for while I believe Lanyon to be one of the most right-minded, hardworking, and able men in South Africa, I know he does not fancy the work in the Transvaal, and I think I could have done better. However, it does not rest with me, and all I have to do is to find a man fit to take his place when he leaves."[155]

[Footnote 155: Cornhill Magazine, July, 1900. "The South African Policy of Sir Bartle Frere." By W. Basil Worsfold.]

All of these three men were of Cabinet rank. Two of them, Mr. Morley and Mr. Bryce, enjoyed a great and deserved reputation as men of letters; and their public utterances on the South African question, accepted in large measure on the strength of this literary reputation, were responsible in an appreciable degree for the distrust and coldness manifested by the people of the United States of America towards Great Britain during the first year of the war. But this is a consideration of secondary importance. The vital point to recognise is that, so long as the Empire remains without a common representative council, a knowledge of the conditions of the over-sea Britains must be considered as necessary a part of the political equipment of any English statesman as a knowledge of Lancashire or of Kent. After the war had broken out, Lord Rosebery, almost alone among Liberal statesmen, did something to support the Government. This distinguished advocate of Imperial unity and national efficiency then recommended the English people to educate themselves by reading Sir Percy FitzPatrick's The Transvaal from Within, and encouraged them by declaring his belief that England would "muddle through" this, as other wars. It does not seem, however, to have occurred to Lord Rosebery that, if he had used his undoubted influence in time to prevent his party from making it impossible for the Salisbury Cabinet to carry out in June the effective peace strategy long recommended by Lord Milner, the prospect of a "muddle" would have been materially diminished, if not altogether removed.

[Sidenote: Mr. Chamberlain's proposal.]

There is one other fact that cannot be overlooked in estimating the degree in which the Liberal leaders are answerable to the nation for the fatal error of postponing effective military preparations from June to September. After the failure of the Bloemfontein Conference Lord Milner, as we have seen, asked for immediate and substantial reinforcements. Mr. Chamberlain then approached Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman with a proposal that the Government should inform the Opposition leaders of the circumstances that made military preparations necessary, and of the precise measures which they might deem advisable to adopt from time to time, on the understanding that the Opposition, on their part, should refrain from raising any public discussion as to the expediency of these measures. The object of this proposal was, of course, to enable the Government to make effective preparations for war, without lessening the prospect of achieving a peaceful settlement by the negotiations in progress. Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman's reply to this overture was a refusal to make the Opposition a party to any such arrangement. If the Government chose to make military preparations they must do so, he said, entirely on their own responsibility.

The significance of this refusal of Mr. Chamberlain's offer appears from the answer which was subsequently put forward by the Prime Minister, the late Lord Salisbury, to the charge of "military unpreparedness" brought against the British Government after the early disasters of the campaign. What prevented the Cabinet, according to the Premier, from taking the measures required by the military situation in June was the British system of popular government. Any preparations on the scale demanded by Lord Milner and Lord Wolseley could not have been set on foot without provoking the fullest discussion in Parliament and the Press. The leaders of the Opposition would have contested fiercely the proposals of the Government, and the perversion of these opportunities for discussion into an anti-war propaganda might have exhibited England as a country divided against itself. It may be questioned whether, in point of fact, the Liberal leaders could have done anything more calculated to injure the interests of their country if the Government had mobilised the army corps, and despatched the ten thousand defensive troops in June, than they did when these measures were postponed until September. But, however this may be, the circumstance that this proposal was made by Mr. Chamberlain, and refused by Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman, is noteworthy both as an indication of the spirit of lofty patriotism of which the Salisbury Cabinet, in spite of its initial error, was destined to give more than one proof in the course of the war and as an example of a method of escaping from the injurious results of a well-recognised defect in the democratic system of government—a method which, it is not unreasonable to hope, may be employed with success should the like occasion arise at any future time.

This, then, was the state of affairs in England. The Opposition throughout the negotiations was proclaiming that war was out of the question, and that preparations for war were altogether unnecessary. The people, being ignorant of the progress which the nationalist movement in South Africa had made, were irresolute, and withheld from the Government the support without which it could not make adequate military preparations, except at the risk of defeat in Parliament and possible loss of office.

[Sidenote: Objects of Afrikander policy.]

What was the position in South Africa? Above all, what was the position of the man whose duty it was "to take all such measures and do all such things" as were necessary for the safety of the subjects of the Crown and for the maintenance of British interests? The ignorance of South Africa that led to the partial paralysis of the Government was in no sense attributable to him. The broad fact that the Afrikander nationalist[156] movement had made the moral supremacy of the Dutch complete was declared by Lord Milner, during his visit to England in the winter of 1898-9, to the Colonial Secretary and other members of the Salisbury Cabinet. His verdict that nothing but prompt and energetic action on the part of the Imperial Government could keep South Africa a part of the Empire was publicly made known (so far as he was concerned) in his despatch of May 4th, 1899, which was withheld, however, from publication until June 14th. The Bloemfontein Conference was a device of the Afrikander nationalists at the Cape to avert a military conflict between the South African Republic and Great Britain, which, they believed, would result not merely in the destruction of the Republics, but in the loss of the prospect—which they then enjoyed—of achieving through the existence of the Republics the independence of the Afrikander nation as a whole. All this Lord Milner made perfectly clear to Mr. Chamberlain. The illusory concessions embodied in President Krueger's Franchise Law were yielded by the Republics with the object of securing the "moral support" of the Cape Afrikanders in the negotiations, and thereby obtaining the delay which was required to complete their military preparations; since the Republican nationalists, unlike those of the Cape, believed that the independence of the Afrikander nation could be wrested from Great Britain by force of arms. The efforts made by the Cape nationalists, first to secure these concessions, and then to induce the republican nationalists to grant the further concessions which would have satisfied the British Government, were made for the same purpose as the Bloemfontein Conference had been arranged—namely, to avert a conflict which, being premature, would be disastrous to the nationalist cause, not only in the Republics but in the Cape Colony. The respective objects both of the republican and Cape nationalists had been divined by Lord Milner, and, therefore, immediately after the failure of the Conference, he had urged the Home Government to send reinforcements to South Africa sufficient to defend British territory from attack, and to check any incipient rebellion in the Cape Colony. The negotiations might, or might not, result in a peaceful settlement; but it was futile, nay more, it was dangerous, he said, for Great Britain to go on as though war were out of the question.

[Footnote 156: The reader is referred to p. 5 in Chap. I. for the racial characteristics of the South African Dutch, and to the note on p. 48 in Chap. II. for the political significance of the word "Afrikander," as stated by Mr. S. J. du Toit.]

[Sidenote: Lord Milner's position.]

This was the view of the South African situation which Lord Milner laid before the Home Government in June. We have seen what was done by them in response to these representations. Some special service officers were sent out to organise locally the defences of the Cape Colony and Rhodesia. The Cape and Natal garrisons were strengthened by a few very inadequate reinforcements arriving in the course of the next two months. General Butler was not recalled until the latter part of August; his successor, General Forestier-Walker, did not arrive until September 6th. We have traced the causes which made it impossible for the Imperial Government, as they conceived, to do more than this; and when in due course we come to consider the broad phases of the war, the nature of the penalty which the British Army, and the British nation, had to pay for the partial paralysis of the Government will become sufficiently apparent.

The man who suffered most by all this was Lord Milner. When he asked for military preparations, he was told that he could not have them. When he asked for the removal of a military adviser with whom he was supremely dissatisfied, he was told that he must put up with General Butler for a little longer. He put up with him for two months. His Colonial ministers, whose advice on many points he was bound to accept so long as he did not dismiss them, were men placed in office by the Dutch subjects of the Crown for the very purpose of frustrating, by constitutional means, the successful intervention in the Transvaal, by which alone, in his opinion, British supremacy could be made a reality.

Indeed, the odds were heavily against Lord Milner in his task of saving England, in spite of herself and in spite of the enemies of whose power she was wholly ignorant, and to whose very existence she remained contemptuously indifferent. To the great mass of the British population in South Africa, he stood for England and English justice. To them he seemed the representative man, for whom they had waited many a long year. They felt that he was fighting their battle and doing their work; and, making allowance for local jealousies and accidental partialities, they never ceased to regard him thus. This was his one and only source of assured support. But he was far removed from the active British centres: from the group of towns formed by the Albany settlers and their descendants in the Eastern Province, and from Kimberley, Durban and Maritzburg, and Johannesburg. In the Cape peninsula, of course, there was a considerable British population of professional and commercial men; but this population had been so closely related by business and social ties with the preponderant Dutch population of the Western Province that many among them hesitated to declare themselves openly against the Dutch party. All who were members of the Progressive party, from the time of the Graaf Reinet speech, had given unswerving support to Lord Milner's policy; but the strength of the influence created by years of alternate political co-operation with the Bond leaders may be gathered from the fact that even so staunch a supporter of the British connection as Sir James (then Mr.) Rose Innes did not publicly declare his adhesion to the intervention policy until after the failure of the Bloemfontein Conference. Moreover, the increasing political solidarity of the British population in the Cape Colony augmented the bitterness with which the few English politicians, who had remained in alliance with the Dutch party, regarded the man whose resolution and insight had penetrated and exposed the designs of the Bond.

[Sidenote: Intrigues and disaffection.]

It is difficult to convey any adequate impression of the atmosphere of suspicion and intrigue by which Lord Milner was surrounded. The Dutch party was in the ascendant in the Colony. The Cape Civil Service was tainted throughout with disaffection. Even the personnel of the Government offices at Capetown, although it contained many excellent and loyal men, included also many who were disaffected or lukewarm. It is characteristic of the situation that during the most critical period of the negotiations with the Transvaal, the ministerial organ, The South African News, permitted itself to indulge, where Lord Milner, was concerned, not only in the bitterest criticisms but in outspoken personal abuse. To have abused the representative of the Sovereign in a British colony of which one-half of the population was seething with sedition, while a part had been actually armed for rebellion by the secret emissaries of a state with which Great Britain was on the verge of war, is an act which admits of only one interpretation. Lord Milner was to be got rid of at all costs; for the policy which The South African News was intended to promote was that not of Great Britain, but of the Transvaal. The paper was directly inspired—it is indeed not unlikely that the articles themselves were written—by some of the members of the Ministry, Lord Milner's "constitutional advisers," whom throughout he himself treated with the respect to which their position entitled them.

But nothing, perhaps, shows more vividly how extraordinary was the position in which Lord Milner found himself than the fact, which we have already noted, that the passage of the large consignment of 500 Mauser rifles and 1,000,000 cartridges for the Free State, to which the Prime Minister's attention was "drawn specially, because it was large," on July 15th, was not made known to him, the Governor of the Cape Colony, until August 9th, and then only by accident.[157] There is only one explanation of this remarkable incident: the interests of the Dutch party were different from those of the British Government. The Cape Colony was only in name a British colony. Under the guise of constitutional forms it had attained independence—virtual, though not nominal. If Lord Milner had contracted the habit of Biblical quotation from the Afrikander leaders, he might well have quoted the words of the psalmist: "Many bulls have compassed me; strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round."[158] Even the approaches to Government House were watched by spies in President Krueger's pay, who carefully noted all who came and went. Members of the Uitlander community were the special subjects of this system of espionage.

[Footnote 157: See letters between Lord Milner and Mr. Schreiner in Cd. 43, p. 13.]

[Footnote 158: Psalm xxii. 12.]

[Sidenote: Spies round Government House.]

"When on a visit to Capetown," writes Sir Percy FitzPatrick, "I called several times upon the High Commissioner, and learning, by private advice, that my movements were being reported in detail through the Secret Service Department, I informed Sir Alfred Milner of the fact. Sir Alfred admitted that the idea of secret agents in British territory and spies round or in Government House was not pleasant, but expressed the hope that those things should not deter those who wished to call on him, as he was there as the representative of Her Majesty for the benefit of British subjects, and very desirous of ascertaining for himself the facts of the case."[159]

[Footnote 159: The Transvaal from Within, p. 287.]

The Afrikander leaders in the Cape never identified themselves with the British cause. To them the Salisbury Cabinet was a "team most unjustly disposed towards us"; a team, moreover, which they earnestly, and not without reason, hoped might be replaced by a Liberal Government that would allow them undisturbed to carry forward their plans to full fruition. The motive of their "mediation," such as it was, was political expediency. It was not from any belief in the justice of the British claims that they endeavoured to persuade the republican nationalists to give way; still less from any feeling that England's cause was their cause. When, at length, they became really earnest in pressing President Krueger to grant a "colourable" measure of franchise reform—to use Mr. Merriman's adjective—it was for their own sake, and not for England's, that they worked. This motive runs through the whole of their correspondence; but it emerges more frankly in the urgent messages sent during the three days (September 12th to 15th) in which the Transvaal reply to the British despatch of September 8th was being prepared. "Mind," telegraphs Mr. Hofmeyr to Mr. Fischer on September 13th, "war will probably have a fatal effect on the Transvaal, the Free State, and the Cape Afrikander party." And when, from Mr. Fischer's reply, war was seen to have come in spite of all his counsels of prudence, the racial tie asserted itself, and he found consolation for his impotence in an expression of his hatred against England. On September 14th Mr. Hofmeyr telegraphed to President Steyn:

"I suppose you have seen our wires to Fischer and his replies, which latter I deeply regret. The 'to be or not to be' of the Transvaal, Free State, and our party at the Cape, depends upon this decision. The trial is a severe one, but hardly so severe as the outrageous despatches received by Brand from [Sir Philip] Wodehouse and [Sir Henry] Barkly. The enemy then hoped that Brand would refuse, as the Transvaal's enemy now hopes Krueger will do; but Brand conceded, and saved the State. Follow Brand's example. Future generations of your and my people will praise you."

[Sidenote: Hofmeyr's "bitter feelings".]

And on the 15th:

"You have no conception of my bitter feelings, which can hardly be surpassed by that of our and your people, but the stronger my feelings the more I am determined to repress them, when considering questions of policy affecting the future weal or woe of our people. May the Supreme Being help you, me, and them. Have not seen the High Commissioner for weeks."

The reply of the republican nationalists, addressed to Mr. Hofmeyr and forwarded through President Steyn, contains a characteristically distorted version of the course of the negotiations. They have made concession after concession, but all in vain. "However much we recognise and value your kind intentions," they write, "we regret that it is no longer possible for us to comply with the extravagant and brutal requests of the British Government." Thus the Pretoria Executive declared themselves on September 15th, 1899, to the Master of the Bond, when they were in the act of refusing Mr. Chamberlain's offer to accept a five years' franchise bill, provided it was shown by due inquiry to be a genuine measure of reform. Very different was the account of the same transaction given by Mr. Smuts, when, in urging the remnant of the burghers of both Republics to surrender, he said, on May 30th, 1902, at Vereeniging, "I am one of those who, as members of the Government of the South African Republic, provoked the war with England". But the passage in this document which is most useful to the historian is that in which the republican nationalists remind the Afrikander leaders at the Cape of the insincerity of their original "mediation." In dialectics Mr. Fischer, Mr. Smuts, and Mr. Reitz are quite able to hold their own with Mr. Hofmeyr, Dr. Te Water, and Mr. Schreiner. They have not forgotten the Cape Prime Minister's precipitate benediction alike of President Krueger's Bloemfontein scheme and of the seven years' franchise of the Volksraad proposals. They remember also how the "Hofmeyr compromise" was proclaimed in the Bond and the ministerial press as affording conclusive evidence of the "sweet reasonableness" of President Krueger and his Executive. And so they remark, "We are sorry not to be able to follow your advice; but we point out that you yourself let it be known that we had your whole approval, if we gave the present franchise as we were doing."[160] Here we have the kernel of the whole matter. A nine years', seven years', or a five years' franchise was all one to the Cape Nationalists, provided only that England was kept a little longer from claiming her position as paramount Power in South Africa. For these men knew, or thought they knew, that for England "a little longer" would be "too late."

[Footnote 160: This document was among those secured by the Intelligence Department, and published in The Times History of the War.]

[Sidenote: Lord Milner and Mr. Schreiner.]

It was a greater achievement to have frustrated so subtle a combination, directed by the astute mind of Mr. Hofmeyr—the man who refused to allow his passions to interfere with his policy—than to have prevented the British Government from falling a victim to the coarse duplicity of President Krueger. Tireless effort and consummate statesmanship alone would not have accomplished this purpose. To these qualities Lord Milner added a personal charm, elusive, and yet irresistible; and it was this "union of intellect with fascination," of which Lord Rosebery had spoken,[161] that enabled him to transcend the infinite difficulty of his official relationship to Mr. Schreiner. Even so that relationship must have broken down under the strain of the negotiations and the war, had not Mr. Schreiner's complex political creed included the saving clause of allegiance to his sovereign. When once the British troops had begun to land Mr. Schreiner accepted the new situation. No longer merely the parliamentary head of the Dutch party and the agent of the Bond, he realised also his responsibility as a minister of the Crown. None the less there were matters of the gravest concern in which, both before and after the ultimatum, the Prime Minister used all the constitutional means at his disposal to oppose Lord Milner. When, upon the arrival (August 5th) of the small additions to the Cape garrison ordered out in June, Lord Milner determined to draw the attention of the Ministry to the exposed condition of the Colony, he found that the Prime Minister's views differed completely from his own. A few days later he addressed a minute to his ministers on the subject of the defence of Kimberley and other military questions. From this time onwards, in almost daily battles, Mr. Schreiner resisted the plans of local military preparation which Lord Milner deemed necessary for the protection of the Colony. His object, as he said, was to keep the Cape Colony out of the struggle.[162] On Friday, September 8th, when in London the Cabinet Council was held at which it was decided to send out the 10,000 troops to reinforce the South African garrison, at Capetown Lord Milner was engaged in a long endeavour to persuade his Prime Minister that it was necessary to do something for the defence of Kimberley.[163] Up to the very day on which the Free State commandos crossed the border, Mr. Schreiner relied upon the definite pledge given him by President Steyn that the territory of the Cape Colony would not be invaded; and not until that day was he undeceived.

[Footnote 161: See p. 77.]

[Footnote 162: In the House of Assembly, August 28th.]

[Footnote 163: One of the earliest measures of precaution which Lord Milner desired was a plan for the defence of Kimberley. But when, on June 12th, the people of Kimberley requested the Government of the Colony to take steps for the protection of their town, the reply which they received, through the Civil Commissioner, was this: "There is no reason whatever for apprehending that Kimberley is, or in any contemplated event will be, in danger of attack, and Mr. Schreiner is of opinion that your fears are groundless and your anticipations without foundation."]

[Sidenote: Schreiner and Steyn.]

"I said to the President," he declared in the Cape Parliament a year later,[164] "that I would not believe he would invade south of the Orange River.[165] President Steyn's reply was, 'Can you give me a guarantee that no troops will come to the border?' Of course, I could give no such guarantee, and I did not then believe that, although such a guarantee could not be given, the Free State would invade British territory with the object of endeavouring to promote the establishment of one Republic in South Africa, as the Prime Minister[166] has said."

[Footnote 164: September 24th, 1900.]

[Footnote 165: This was on October 11th, 1899—the day on which the ultimatum expired.]

[Footnote 166: Sir Gordon Sprigg—Mr. Schreiner's Ministry was replaced by a Progressive Ministry in June, 1900.]

As the Boer invasion spread further into the Colony Mr. Schreiner receded proportionately from his original standpoint of neutrality. Indeed, three distinct phases in the Prime Minister's progress can be distinguished. In the first stage, which lasted until the actual invasion of the Colony by the Boer commandos, he used all his constitutional power to prevent the people of the Colony, British and Dutch alike, from being involved in the war: and it was only after a severe struggle that Lord Milner prevailed upon him even to call out the Kimberley Volunteers on October 2nd, i.e., a week before the Ultimatum. This, "the neutrality" stage, lasted up to the invasion. After the invasion came the second stage, in which Mr. Schreiner seems to have argued to himself in this manner: "As the Boers have invaded this colony, I, as Prime Minister, cannot refuse that the local forces should be called out to protect its territory." And so on October 16th, after Vryburg had gone over to the Boers, after Kimberley had been cut off, and the whole country from Kimberley to Orange River was in the hands of the enemy, he consented to the issue of a proclamation calling out 2,000 volunteers for garrison duty within the Colony.[167] But in making this tardy concession he was careful to point out to Lord Milner that the British cause would lose more than it would gain. "I warn you," he said in effect, "that it is not to your advantage; because you are the weaker party. In the Cape Colony more men will fight for the Boers than will fight for you." The third stage in Mr. Schreiner's conversion was reached when, in November, 1899, the invading Boers had advanced to the Tembuland border, in the extreme east of the Colony. Then Mr. Schreiner allowed the natives to be called out for the defence of their own territory. In making this final concession the Prime Minister yielded to the logic of facts in a matter concerning which he had previously offered a most stubborn resistance to the Governor's arguments.

[Footnote 167: With this may be compared the fact that in Natal the whole of the local forces were mobilised on September 29th for active service. The dates upon which further units of the Cape local forces were called out are as follows: Uitenhage Rifles and Komgha Mounted Rifles, November 10th; Cape Medical Staff Corps, November 16th; and Frontier Mounted Rifles, November 24th.]

[Sidenote: Schreiner and local forces.]

For in the discussion of the measures urged by Lord Milner as necessary for the protection of the Colony, the question of arming the natives and coloured people had necessarily arisen. The Bastards in the west and the Tembus in the east were known to be eager to defend the Queen's country against invasion. Mr. Schreiner declared that to arm the natives was to do violence to the central principle upon which the maintenance of civilisation in South Africa was based—the principle that the black man must never be used to fight against the white. Lord Milner did not question the validity of this principle; but he maintained—and rightly, as Mr. Schreiner admitted subsequently by his action in the case of the Tembu frontier—that it could not be applied to the case in question. "If white men," he said, "will go and invade the territory of the blacks, then the blacks must be armed to repel the invasion."

The change which came over Mr. Schreiner's attitude, due, no doubt, partly to his gradual enlightenment as to the real aims of the republican nationalists, but also to the skilful use which Lord Milner made of that enlightenment, may be traced in the following contrasts. Before the Boer invasion he refused to call out the local forces of the Colony even for purposes of defence;[168] afterwards he not only sanctioned the employment of these forces in the Colony, but allowed them to take part in Lord Roberts' advance upon Bloemfontein and Pretoria. Before the invading Boers, having already possessed themselves of the north-eastern districts of Cape Colony, began to threaten the purely native territories to the south, he would not hear of the natives being armed for their own protection. But when the Boers had actually reached the borders of Tembuland he consented. In his advice to the Cape Government, no less than in that which he gave to the Home Government, Lord Milner was shown to be in the right. In both cases he urged an effective preparation for war. In both the measures which he advised were ultimately taken; but taken only when they had lost all their power as a means of promoting peace, and half of their efficacy as a contribution to the rapid and successful prosecution of the war. In both cases Lord Milner was able, in the face of unparalleled obstacles, to secure just the minimum preparation for war which stood between the British Empire and overwhelming military disaster.

[Footnote 168: The Kimberley and Mafeking Volunteers were called out at the last moment, but actually before the war broke out; but the safety of both these places was imperilled by the refusal, or delay, of the colonial Government to supply them with guns.]

We have observed the position in Great Britain, and found that the root cause of the impotence of the Home Government was the nation's ignorance of South Africa. In the Cape Colony the evil was of a different order. Lord Milner, although High Commissioner for South Africa, had within the Colony only the strictly limited powers of a constitutional governor. The British population were keenly alive to the necessity for active preparations for the defence of their country; were, indeed, indignant at the refusal of the Schreiner Cabinet to allow the local forces to be called out: but the Dutch party was in office, the Bond was "loyal," Mr. Schreiner was a minister of the Crown, and the most that the Governor could do was to urge upon his ministers the measures upon the execution of which he had no power to insist.

[Sidenote: Seven years after.]

The best comment upon this strange situation is that which is afforded by a passage in Lord Milner's speech in the House of Lords on February 26th, 1906. Seven years have gone by, and the great proconsul has returned to England. He is drawn from his much-needed rest by a sudden danger to the country which he has kept a part of the Empire. The Unionist Government has fallen, and a Liberal Government has been placed in power. He is warning this Government of the danger of a premature grant of responsible government to the Orange River Colony.

"What is going to happen under responsible government? It is more than probable, it is, humanly speaking, certain, that the persons to whom I have referred will form a large majority, if not almost the whole, of that first elected Parliament of the Orange River Colony to which, from the first hour of its existence, the whole legislative and executive power in that colony is to be entrusted. I do not suggest that they will begin by doing anything sinister. All forms will be duly observed; as why should they not be? It will be perfectly possible for them, with the most complete constitutional propriety, little by little to reverse all that has been done, and gradually to get rid of the British officials, the British teachers, the bulk of the British settlers, and any offensive British taint which may cling to the statute-book or the administration. I can quite understand that, from the point of view of what are known as the pro-Boers, such a result is eminently desirable. They thought the war was a crime, the annexation a blunder, and they think to-day that the sooner you can get back to the old state of things the better. I say I quite understand that view, though I do not suppose it is shared by His Majesty's ministers, or, at any rate, by all of them. What I cannot understand is how any human being, not being a pro-Boer, can regard with equanimity the prospect that the very hand which drafted the ultimatum of October, 1899,[169] may within a year be drafting 'Ministers' Minutes' for submission to a British Governor who will have virtually no option but to obey them. What will be the contents of those minutes, I wonder? As time goes on it may be a proposal for dispensing with English as an official language, or a proposal for the distribution to every country farmer of a military rifle and so many hundred cartridges, in view of threatened danger from the Basutos."

[Footnote 169: Mr. Fischer. See forward, p. 291.]

[Sidenote: "Just reminiscences".]

So far Lord Milner had dealt with the Orange River Colony. Then he let his thoughts range back to these months of his great ordeal.

"I think I can see the Governor just hesitating a little to put his hand to such a document. In that case I think I can hear the instant low growl of menace from Press and platform and pulpit, the hints of the necessity of his recall, and the answering scream from the pro-Boer Press of Britain against the ruthless satrap, ignorant of constitutional usage and wholly misunderstanding his own position, who dared to trample upon the rights of a free people. I may be told, I know I shall be told, that such notions are the wild imaginings of a disordered brain, that these are theoretical possibilities having no relation to fact or to probability. My Lords, they are not imaginings. They are just reminiscences.

"I know what it is to be Governor of a self-governing colony, with the disaffected element in the ascendant. I was bitterly attacked for not being sufficiently submissive under the circumstances. Yet, even with the least submissive Governor, the position is so weak that strange things happen. It was under responsible government, and in the normal working of responsible government, that 1,000,000 cartridges were passed through Cape Colony, on the eve of the war, to arm the people who were just going to attack us, and that some necessary cannon were stopped from being sent to a defenceless border town,[170] which directly afterwards was besieged, and which, from want of these cannon, was nearly taken."[171]

[Footnote 170: Kimberley.]

[Footnote 171: The Times, February 27th, 1906.]

Thus, six and a half years later, Lord Milner spoke of these months of Sturm und Drang in the calm and passionless atmosphere of the House of Lords.

From Bloemfontein to the ultimatum, the British flag in South Africa was stayed upon the "inflexible resolution" of one man. Two months later, when the army corps was all but landed, the English at the Cape gave speech. Then Sir David Gill's words at the St. Andrew's Day celebration of November 30th, 1890 came as a fresh breeze dispersing the miasmic humours of some low-lying, ill-drained plain.

[Sidenote: What the loyalists thought.]

"In the history of the British colonies," he said, "no Governor has ever been placed in greater difficulties. In spite of a support of the most shamelessly feeble character, and in spite of a want of understanding at home, His Excellency has not only had to originate and carry out a policy, but he has had to instruct the whole nation in the dangers which threatened; and the means which were necessary to remove that danger.

"When His Excellency came to this colony he found it honeycombed with sedition. He found a canting loyalty, which aimed at the overthrow of British supremacy in this colony, and not only in this colony, but in South Africa as well.... There have been a mighty lot of misunderstandings in this country, a mighty lot of mealy-mouthed loyalty, that did not mean loyalty at all, and a mighty working to overthrow the power of Englishmen (and Scotchmen) in this country—first of all to bring them into contempt with the native population; secondly, to deprive them of all political power; and thirdly, to deprive them of all material power.... We have a minister who has gone to the front,[172] but it is a remarkable fact that since that minister has gone to the front the accessions of colonists to the ranks of the rebels have been tenfold greater than they were before he went. It is in the face of these innumerable difficulties that Sir Alfred Milner has carried out his work."

[Footnote 172: Mr. J. W. Sauer. The reference is (in Lord Milner's words) to Mr. Sauer's "well-meant but unsuccessful mission to Dordrecht, which was immediately followed by rebellion in that district." The facts, as fully disclosed a year later, are these. On November 23rd, 1899, Mr. Sauer held a meeting at Dordrecht to dissuade the Dutch subjects of the Crown in the Wodehouse Division of the Colony from joining in the rebellion. As the result of this meeting a deputation was sent to the Commandant of the Boer invading-force, Olivier, who was at Barkly East, desiring him not to come to Dordrecht. On November 27th another meeting was held (also addressed by Mr. Sauer) and a second deputation of the inhabitants waited upon Olivier. The sequel is revealed in the telegram despatched the following day (November 28th) by the Boer Commandant to the Secretary, the War Commission, Bloemfontein: "... To-day already I received the second deputation from Dordrecht not to come to Dordrecht. This is asked officially, but privately they say that this is also a blind, and that we must come at once...." On December 2nd Olivier was received with open arms at Dordrecht. It was in a district where, in the Boer Commandant's words, "the Afrikanders were rejoicing, and joining the commandos was universal."—Cd. 420, p. 108 and p. 96; Cd. 43, p. 221; and Cd. 261, p. 126.]

This is how it struck a distinguished man of science, and one who was qualified, moreover, by a residence at the Cape which dated back to the days of the Zulu War, to understand the full significance of what was going on around him.

In July and August, President Krueger was winning all along the line. The Home Government was kept harmless and inactive by the Franchise Bill; the Cape Government tied the hands of the High Commissioner; supplies of arms and ammunition were pouring in, the temper of the burghers in both republics was rising, foreign military officers and M. Leon of the Creuzot Works had arrived; in short, the military preparations of four years were consummated without let or hindrance. September was less exclusively favourable to the republican cause. On September 8th, as we have seen, the Salisbury Cabinet determined to send out the defensive forces for which Lord Milner had asked three months before. Sir William Butler had been recalled; and General Forestier-Walker did all in his power to carry out the measures urged, and in most cases actually devised, by Lord Milner for the effective employment of the few thousand Imperial troops at his disposal. On the 18th and 19th the Lancashire regiment was sent up-country from Capetown—half to garrison Kimberley, and half to hold the bridge that carried the main trunk line over the Orange River on its way northwards to Kimberley and then past the Transvaal border to Rhodesia. In doing this, however, Lord Milner was careful to point out to President Steyn that no menace was intended to the Free State, which, "in case of war with the Transvaal Her Majesty's Government hoped would remain neutral, and the neutrality of which would be most strictly respected." Such excellent use was made by Lord Milner of the six weeks which elapsed between the recall of General Butler and the ultimatum (October 9th-11th), that the handful of regulars dotted down before the Free State border of the colony, and skilfully distributed at strategic points upon the railways, sufficed to keep President Steyn's commandos from penetrating south of the Orange River, until the army corps had begun to disembark at the Cape ports. On this, as on another occasion to be subsequently noted, it is difficult to withhold a tribute of admiration to the gifted personality of the man who, himself a civilian, could thus readily apply his unique knowledge of South African conditions to the uses of the art of war. At the same time, the promptitude and efficiency displayed by the Indian military authorities provided Natal, by October 8th, with a force that proved just—and only just—sufficient to prevent the Boer commandos from sweeping right through that colony down to Durban.

[Sidenote: The negotiations closed.]

In the meantime the negotiations, having served their purpose, were being brought rapidly to a conclusion by the Pretoria Executive. On September 15th, as we have seen, the Republic notified its refusal to accept the terms offered in the British despatch of the 8th; and before that date, as we have also noted, some of the Transvaal commandos had been ordered to take up their positions on the Natal border. On the 22nd a meeting of the Cabinet was held in London, at which it was decided to mobilise the army corps—a measure advised by Lord Wolseley in June. At the same time Lord Milner was instructed by telegraph to communicate to the South African Republic a despatch[173] in which the British Government "absolutely denied and repudiated" the claim of the South African Republic to be a "sovereign international state," and informed the Pretoria Executive that its refusal to entertain the offer made on September 8th—

[Footnote 173: C. 9,530.]

"coming as it did at the end of nearly four months of protracted negotiations, themselves the climax of an agitation extending over a period of more than five years, made it useless to further pursue a discussion on the lines hitherto followed, and that Her Majesty's Government were now compelled to consider the situation afresh, and to formulate their own proposals for a final settlement"

of the questions at issue. The result of these deliberations was to be communicated to Lord Milner in a later despatch.

[Sidenote: The Burghers mobilised.]

This note of September 22nd, together with a second communication of the same date, in which Mr. Chamberlain warmly repudiated the charges of bad faith brought against Sir William Greene, reached the Pretoria Executive on the 25th, and on the same day it was known that a British force had entrained at Ladysmith for Glencoe. On the 26th intelligence of so serious a nature reached Lord Milner, that he telegraphed to warn the Home Government that the Transvaal and Free State were likely to take the initiative. According to Mr. Amery,[174] an ultimatum had been drafted upon receipt of the British note, and telegraphed on the following day to President Steyn for his approval. At Bloemfontein, however, the document was entirely recast by Mr. Fischer. Even so, in its amended form, it was ready on the 27th. On that day the Free State Raad, after six days of secret session, determined to join the sister Republic in declaring war upon Great Britain, and on the 28th the Transvaal commandos were mobilised. The ultimatum, according to the same authority, would have been delivered to Sir William Greene on Monday, October 2nd, had not deficiencies in the Boer transport and commissariat arrangements made it impossible for the burgher forces to advance immediately upon the British troops in Natal. At the last moment, also, President Steyn seems to have had some misgivings. On September 26th, together with the draft ultimatum from Pretoria, a suggestive telegram from Capetown, signed "Micaiah," and bidding him "Read chapter xxii. 1st Book of Kings, and accept warning," had reached him;[175] and a few days later he received, through Mr. Fischer, a powerful appeal for peace from Sir Henry de Villiers.

[Footnote 174: Times correspondent and editor of The Times History of the War. Mr. Amery arrived at the Cape in the second week of September, and was at Pretoria from September 24th to October 13th.]

[Footnote 175: Secured by Intelligence Department.]

However this may be, the few administrative acts that remained to be taken were quickly accomplished in both Republics. In the Transvaal the remnant of the British population was already in flight; the law courts were suspended; the control of the railways was assumed by the Government and, in order to protect colonial recruits from the legal penalties attached to rebellion, on September 29th the Executive was empowered by the Volksraad to confer citizen rights on all aliens serving in the forces of the Republic. Not content with their barbarous expulsion of the British population, the Governments of both Republics for a week before the expiry of the ultimatum treated those of them who still remained as though a state of war had already been in existence. During these last days telegrams and letters praying for protection against some act of violence or spoliation were constantly arriving at Government House. But what could the High Commissioner do? The Army Corps was 6,000 miles away; the 10,000 defensive troops were most of them still on the water. The Free State, in Mr. Fischer's words, "did not recognise international law, and claimed to commandeer all persons whatsoever" under its own. In the Transvaal, Mr. Reitz (after consultation with Mr. Smuts) was coolly replying to the British Agent's protest against the seizure of the property of British subjects, including L150,000 worth of bar gold, that "the property of private individuals of whatever nationality could be, and was being, commandeered to the value of L15 a head."[176] On October 2nd the Transvaal Raads adjourned, and on the same day President Steyn informed the High Commissioner that the Free State burghers had been summoned for commando service. An interchange of telegrams then ensued, of which one, despatched on October 6th, is important as showing how earnestly Lord Milner seconded Mr. Chamberlain's endeavour to keep the door open for a peaceful settlement up to the last moment.

[Footnote 176: C. 9,530.]

[Sidenote: Last words.]

"I have the honour," he said, "to acknowledge Your Honour's long telegram of yesterday afternoon [the 5th], the substance of which I have communicated to Her Majesty's Government. There is, I think, a conclusive reply to Your Honour's accusation against the policy of Her Majesty's Government, but no good purpose would be served by recrimination. The present position is that burgher forces are assembled in very large numbers in immediate proximity to the frontiers of Natal, while the British troops occupy certain defensive positions well within those borders. The question is whether the burgher forces will invade British territory, thus closing the door to any possibility of a pacific solution. I cannot believe that the South African Republic will take such aggressive action, or that Your Honour would countenance such a course, which there is nothing to justify. Prolonged negotiations have hitherto failed to bring about a satisfactory understanding, and no doubt such understanding is more difficult than ever to-day, after the expulsion of British subjects with great loss and suffering; but until the threatened act of aggression is committed I shall not despair of peace, and I feel sure that any reasonable proposal, from whatever quarter proceeding, would be favourably considered by Her Majesty's Government if it offered an immediate termination of present tension and a prospect of permanent tranquillity."[177]

[Footnote 177: C. 9,530.]

With this—practically the final communication of the British Government—it is instructive to compare the "last words" of the two other protagonists. The Pretoria Executive, true to its policy of playing for time, sends through Mr. Reitz two long and argumentative replies to the British despatches of July 27th (the Joint Commission), and May 10th (Mr. Chamberlain's reply to the petition to the Queen). The Afrikander nationalists having failed to "mediate" in Pretoria and Bloemfontein, consoled themselves with a final effort in the shape of a direct appeal to the Queen. In a petition signed by the fifty-eight Afrikander members of both Houses of the Cape Parliament, including, of course, the members of the Schreiner Cabinet, they declare their earnest belief that the South African Republic "is fully awakened to the wisdom and discretion of making liberal provision for the representation of the Uitlanders," and urge Her Majesty's Government to appoint a Joint Commission—a proposal to which the British Government had declared that it was impossible to return. The effect of this somewhat half-hearted effort was, however, on this occasion appreciably diminished by the fact that the nationalist petition was accompanied by a resolution presented by fifty-three Progressive members of the Cape Parliament, embodying their entire disapproval of the opinion put forward by the petitioners, and containing the assurance that Her Majesty's Government might rely upon their strongest support.

[Sidenote: The ultimatum delivered.]

The ultimatum was delivered to Sir William Greene on the afternoon of Monday, October 9th, and forthwith telegraphed to the High Commissioner at Capetown. Although it was a week behind time at Pretoria, its arrival was somewhat unexpected at Government House. Saturday and Sunday had been days of quite unusual calm. The Secretary, whose business it was to decode the official telegrams, commenced his task with but languid interest. He had decoded so many apparently unnecessary and inconclusive despatches of late. At first this seemed very much like the others. But, as he worked on, he came upon words that startled him to a sudden attention:

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