"they consider it [their] duty solemnly to declare that this war was undertaken solely as a defensive measure to safeguard the threatened independence of the South African Republic, and is only continued in order to secure and safeguard the incontestable independence of both Republics as sovereign international states, and to obtain the assurance that those of Her Majesty's subjects who have taken part with [them] in this war shall suffer no harm whatever in person or property."
They further declare that "on these conditions, but on these conditions alone," they are now, as in the past, desirous of seeing peace re-established in South Africa; and they add considerately that they have refrained from making this declaration "so long as the advantage was always on their side," from a fear lest it "might hurt the feelings of honour of the British people." They conclude:
"But now that the prestige of the British Empire may be considered to be assured by the capture of one of our forces by Her Majesty's troops, and that we are thereby forced to evacuate other positions which our forces had occupied, that difficulty is over, and we can no longer hesitate clearly to inform your Government and people, in the sight of the whole civilised world, why we are fighting, and on what conditions we are ready to restore peace."
[Footnote 206: Cd. 35.]
The best comment upon this grossly disingenuous document is that which is afforded by certain passages in Mr. Reitz's book, A Century of Wrong, which was written in anticipation of the outbreak of war and issued so soon as this anticipation had been realised:
"The struggle of now nearly a century," he writes in his appeal to his brother Afrikanders, "hastens to an end; we are approaching the last act in that great drama which is so momentous for all South Africa.... The questions which present themselves for solution in the approaching conflict have their origin deep in the history of the past.... By its light we are more clearly enabled to comprehend the truth to which our people appeal as a final justification for embarking on the war now so close at hand.... May the hope which glowed in our hearts during 1880, and which buoyed us up during that struggle, burn on steadily! May it prove a beacon of light in our path, invincibly moving onwards through blood and through tears, until it leads us to a real union of South Africa.... Whether the result be victory or death, Liberty will assuredly rise on South Africa ... just as freedom dawned over the United States of America a little more than a century ago. Then from Zambesi to Simon's Town it will be Africa for the Afrikander."
[Footnote 207: Mr. Reitz's work was translated into English by Mr. W. T. Stead.]
And to this may be added the following extract from a letter written by "one of the distinguished members of the Volksraad" who voted for war against Great Britain, to one of his friends, a member of the Legislative Assembly of the Cape Colony:
"Our plan is, with God's help, to take all that is English in South Africa; so, in case you true Afrikanders wish to throw off the English yoke, now is the time to hoist the Vier-kleur in Capetown. You can rely on us; we will push through from sea to sea, and wave one flag over the whole of South Africa, under one Afrikander Government, if we can reckon on our Afrikander brethren."
[Footnote 208: Cd. 109.]
[Sidenote: The British reply.]
Lord Salisbury's reply, sent from the Foreign Office on March 11th, is as follows:
"I have the honour to acknowledge Your Honours' telegram dated the 5th of March, from Bloemfontein, of which the purport is principally to demand that Her Majesty's Government shall recognise the 'incontestable independence' of the South African Republic and Orange Free State 'as sovereign international states,' and to offer, on those terms, to bring the war to a conclusion.
"In the beginning of October last peace existed between Her Majesty and the two Republics under the Conventions which then were in existence. A discussion had been proceeding for some months between Her Majesty's Government and the South African Republic, of which the object was to obtain redress for certain very serious grievances under which British residents in the South African Republic were suffering. In the course of these negotiations the South African Republic had, to the knowledge of Her Majesty's Government, made considerable armaments, and the latter had, consequently, taken steps to provide corresponding reinforcements to the British garrisons of Capetown and Natal. No infringement of the rights guaranteed by the Conventions had up to that point taken place on the British side. Suddenly, at two days' notice, the South African Republic, after issuing an insulting ultimatum, declared war upon Her Majesty, and the Orange Free State, with whom there had not even been any discussion, took a similar step. Her Majesty's dominions were immediately invaded by the two Republics, siege was laid to three towns within the British frontier, a large portion of the two colonies was overrun, with great destruction to property and life, and the Republics claimed to treat the inhabitants of extensive portions of Her Majesty's dominions as if those dominions had been annexed to one or other of them. In anticipation of these operations, the South African Republic had been accumulating for many years past military stores on an enormous scale, which by their character could only have been intended for use against Great Britain.
"Your Honours make some observations of a negative character upon the object with which these preparations were made. I do not think it necessary to discuss the questions you have raised. But the result of these preparations, carried on with great secrecy, has been that the British Empire has been compelled to confront an invasion which has entailed upon the Empire a costly war and the loss of thousands of precious lives. This great calamity has been the penalty which Great Britain has suffered for having in recent years acquiesced in the existence of the two Republics.
"In view of the use to which the two Republics have put the position which was given to them, and the calamities which their unprovoked attack has inflicted upon Her Majesty's dominions, Her Majesty's Government can only answer your Honours' telegram by saying that they are not prepared to assent to the independence either of the South African Republic or of the Orange Free State."
[Sidenote: Conventions to be annulled.]
This reply has been cited at length for two reasons. In the first place it affords a concise and weighty statement of the British case against the Republics, and, in the second, it contains a specific and reasoned declaration of the central decision of the Salisbury Cabinet, against which the efforts both of the Dutch party in the Cape and of the friends of the Boers in England continued to be directed, until the controversy was closed by the surrender of the republican leaders at Vereeniging. In the Cape Colony the cry of "conciliation" was raised to cloak the gross appearance of a movement which was, in fact, a direct co-operation with the enemy. And the same specious word was adopted in England, so soon as the strain of the war had begun to make itself felt in the constituencies, as a decent flag under which the party opponents of the Unionist Government in general could join forces with the traditional friends of the Boers and other convinced opponents of Imperial consolidation. The decision of the Salisbury Cabinet not to restore the system of the Conventions, which was in fact the decision of the great mass of the British people both at home and over-sea, was not reversed. It was confirmed in the House of Commons by 208 votes against 52 on July 25th, 1900, and by the verdict of the country in the General Election which followed. But the political agitation by which it was sought to reverse this decision was none the less injurious alike to the Boer and British peoples, since it acted as a powerful incentive to the republican leaders to continued struggle which, except for the illusions created by this agitation, they would have recognised as hopeless in itself and unjustified by any prospect of military success. In both cases the effect of the agitation was the same: the war was unnecessarily prolonged—intentionally by the Afrikander nationalists, and unintentionally by Lord (then Mr.) Courtney, Mr. Morley, Mr. Bryce, and other opponents in England of the annexation of the Republics.
[Footnote 209: The Unionist party was returned to power with a slightly decreased majority—130 as against 150. But this loss of seats was counterbalanced by the consideration that it is unusual for the same Government to be entrusted with a second period of office by a democratic electorate.]
[Sidenote: The 'Conciliation' movement.]
The Presidents had demanded the recognition of the independence of the Republics and a free pardon for the Cape rebels as the price of peace. The Afrikander nationalists at once began to co-operate with the Republics in the endeavour to wrest these terms from the British Government. Mr. Schreiner, as we have seen, had already incurred Mr. Hofmeyr's displeasure by allowing the Cape Government to render assistance to the Imperial authorities in the prosecution of the war. The breach thus created between the Prime Minister and Sir Richard (then Mr.) Solomon, on the one hand, and Dr. Te Water, Mr. Merriman, and Mr. Sauer, who shared the views of the Bond, on the other, was, rapidly widened by the "conciliation" meetings held throughout the Colony by the Afrikander nationalists in support of the "peace overtures" of the Presidents. The British population at the Cape was quick to realise the insidious and fatal character of the "conciliation" movement thus inaugurated by the Afrikander nationalists. The universal alarm and indignation to which it gave rise among the loyalists of both nationalities found expression in the impassioned speech which Sir James (then Mr.) Rose Innes delivered at the Municipal Hall of Claremont on March 30th, 1900. The purpose of the meeting was to allow the British subjects thus assembled to record their approval of Lord Salisbury's reply to the Republics, and their conviction that "the incorporation of these States within the dominions of the Queen could alone secure peace, prosperity, and public freedom throughout South Africa." In supporting this resolution, Sir James Rose Innes said:
[Footnote 210: A suburb of Capetown.]
"This question of permanent peace is the key-stone of the whole matter, because, I take it, we none of us want to see another war of this kind. We do not want to see the misery and the suffering and the loss which a war of this kind entails. We do not want to see our sandy plains drenched with the best blood of England again, fighting against white men in this country. We do not want to see the flower of colonial manhood shot down on the plains of the Orange Free State and the Karroo, and neither do we want to see brave men, born in South Africa, dying in heaps, dying for what we know is a hopeless ideal. Therefore we say, 'In Heaven's name give us peace! Have a settlement, but make no settlement which shall not be calculated, as far as human foresight can provide, to secure a permanent peace.'"
These were strong words, and their significance was heightened by the well-known independence of Sir James Innes's political outlook.
[Sidenote: Lord Milner at Bloemfontein.]
A fortnight later Lord Milner declared his mind on the same question. Both the occasion and the speech are of special interest. The High Commissioner had just returned from a fortnight at the front. On March 19th he left Capetown in company with Sir Richard Solomon for the north-eastern districts of the Colony, which, having rebelled in November, had just been reduced to order by General Brabant and the "Colonial Division," when the Free State invaders had been drawn off by Lord Roberts's advance. After a week in the Colony, Lord Milner travelled on by rail to Bloemfontein, which he reached on the 27th. It was a stimulating and suggestive moment. He was now the guest of the British Commander-in-Chief at the Presidency, where, just ten months ago, as the guest of President Steyn, he had met Paul Krueger for the first time. The little Free State capital, then wrapped in its accustomed quietude, was now filled with the tumultuous presence of a great army. But, complete as was the revolution accomplished by Lord Roberts's advance, there were signs that the Boer was dying hard, even if he were not coming to life again. On the 30th a disquieting engagement was fought at Karree Siding, and on the 31st de Wet dealt his second shrewd blow at Sannah's Post.
With this experience of the actualities of war, Lord Milner, leaving Bloemfontein on April 2nd, had returned to Capetown. On the 12th he was presented with an appreciative address, signed by all, except one, of the Nonconformist ministers of religion resident in and around Capetown, in which personal affection for himself and approval of his policy were expressed. The action of these men was altogether exceptional. It was justified by the circumstance that in England Lord Milner's policy had been subjected to the bitterest criticism in quarters where Nonconformist influence was predominant. Not only to Lord Courtney, but to other Liberal friends and associates, the High Commissioner had become a "lost mind." To the Afrikander nationalists he was "the enemy"; the efforts which had barely sufficed to keep the administrative machinery of a British colony at the disposal of the Imperial Government were represented as the unconstitutional acts of a tyrannical proconsul; having ruthlessly exposed the aspirations of the Afrikander nationalists he was now to become the destroyer of the Boer nation. The personal note in the address was, therefore, both instructive and welcome, and it elicited a response in which the charm of a calm and generous nature shines through an unalterable determination to know and do the right:
"As regards myself personally, I cannot but feel it is a great source of strength at a trying time to be assured of the confidence and approval of the men I see before me, and of all whom they represent. You refer to my having to encounter misrepresentation and antagonism. I do not wish to make too much of that. I have no doubt been exposed to much criticism and some abuse. There has, I sometimes think, been an exceptional display of mendacity at my expense. But this is the fate of every public man who is forced by circumstances into a somewhat prominent position in a great crisis. And, after all, praise and blame have a wonderful way of balancing one another if you only give them time.
"I remember when I left England for South Africa three years ago, it was amidst a chorus of eulogy so excessive that it made me feel thoroughly uncomfortable. To protest would have been useless: it would only have looked like affectation. So I just placed the surplus praise to my credit, so to speak, as something to live on in the days which I surely knew must come sooner or later, if I did my duty, when I would meet with undeserved censure. And certainly I have had to draw on that account rather heavily during the last nine months. But there is still a balance on the right side which, thanks to you and others, is now once more increasing. So I cannot pose as a martyr, and, what is more important, I cannot complain of any want of support. No man, placed as I have been in a position of singular embarrassment, exposed to bitter attacks to which he could not reply, and unable to explain his conduct even to his own friends, has ever had more compensation to be thankful for than I have had in the constant, devoted, forbearing support and confidence of all those South Africans, whether in this Colony, in Natal, or in the Republics, whose sympathy is with the British Empire.
[Sidenote: Never again.]
"In the concluding paragraph of your address you refer in weighty and well-considered language to the conditions which you deem necessary for the future peace and prosperity of South Africa, and for the ultimate harmony and fusion of its white races. I can only say that I entirely agree with the views expressed in that paragraph. The longer the struggle lasts, the greater the sacrifices which it involves, the stronger must surely be the determination of all of us to achieve a settlement which will render the repetition of this terrible scourge impossible. 'Never again,' must be the motto of all thinking, of all humane men. It is for that reason, not from any lust of conquest, not from any desire to trample on a gallant, if misguided, enemy, that we desire that the settlement shall be no patchwork and no compromise; that it shall leave no room for misunderstanding, no opportunity for intrigue, for the revival of impossible ambitions, or the accumulation of enormous armaments. President Krueger has said that he wants no more Conventions, and I entirely agree with him. A compromise of that sort is unfair to everybody. If there is one thing of which, after recent experiences, I am absolutely convinced, it is that the vital interests of all those who live in South Africa, of our present enemies as much as of those who are on our side, demand that there should not be two dissimilar and antagonistic political systems in that which nature and history have irrevocably decided must be one country. To agree to a compromise which would leave any ambiguity on that point would not be magnanimity: it would be weakness, ingratitude, and cruelty—ingratitude to the heroic dead, and cruelty to the unborn generations.
"But when I say that, do not think that I wish to join in the outcry, at present so prevalent, against the fine old virtue of magnanimity. I believe in it as much as ever I did, and there is plenty of room for it in the South Africa of to-day. We can show it by a frank recognition of what is great and admirable in the character of our enemies; by not maligning them as a body because of the sins of the few, or perhaps even of many, individuals. We can show it by not crowing excessively over our victories, and by not thinking evil of every one who, for one reason or another, is unable to join in our legitimate rejoicings. We can show it by striving to take care that our treatment of those who have been guilty of rebellion, while characterised by a just severity towards the really guilty parties, should be devoid of any spirit of vindictiveness, or of race-prejudice. We can show it, above all, when this dire struggle is over, by proving by our acts that they libelled us who said that we fought for gold or any material advantage, and that the rights and privileges which we have resolutely claimed for ourselves we are prepared freely to extend to others, even to those who have fought against us, whenever they are prepared loyally to accept them."
[Footnote 211: Cd. 261.]
It is the third of three critical utterances of which each is summarised, as it were, in a single luminous phrase. To the Cape Dutch he spoke at Graaf Reinet, after their own manner: "Of course you are loyal!" To England, on the Uitlander's behalf, he wrote: "The case for intervention is overwhelming." And now he gathered the whole long lesson of the war into the two words, "never again."
[Sidenote: British policy.]
A month later Mr. Chamberlain, speaking at Birmingham (May 11th), made a general statement of the nature of the settlement upon which the British Government had determined. The separate existence of the Republics, "constantly intriguing as they had done with foreign nations, constantly promoting agitation and disaffection in our own colonies," was to be tolerated no longer; but the "individual liberties" of the Boers were to be preserved. After the war was over a period of Crown Colony government would be necessary; "but," he added, "as soon as it is safe and possible it will be the desire and the intention of Her Majesty's Government to introduce these States into the great circle of self-governing colonies." In making this pronouncement Mr. Chamberlain referred in terms of just severity to the injurious influence which Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, as the official leader of the Liberal party, had exercised upon the diplomatic contest of the preceding year. At the precise period when a word might have been worth anything to the cause of peace, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, he said—
"had again and again declaimed his own opinion that not only was war out of the question, but that military preparations of any kind were altogether unnecessary. I do not speak of the wisdom which dictated such an expression of opinion," Mr. Chamberlain continued, "although he repeated that statement three days before the ultimatum was delivered, and a week before the invasion of Natal took place. I do not speak, therefore, of his foresight. But what is to be said of the patriotism of a man who is not a single individual but who represents a great party by virtue of his position—although he does not represent it by virtue of his opinion—what is to be said of such a man who, at such a time, should countermine the endeavours for peace of Her Majesty's Government?"
And in the same speech Mr. Chamberlain warned his fellow-countrymen "against the efforts which would be made by the politicians to snatch from them the fruits of a victory which would be won by their soldiers; and in particular against the campaign of misrepresentation which had been commenced already by Mr. Paul, the Stop-the-War Committee, and the other bodies which were so lavish with what they were pleased to call their 'accurate information.'"
[Sidenote: Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman.]
Had Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman seen fit to profit by the experience of the past, the whole of the suffering and loss of the next year and a half of wanton hostilities, in all human probability, would have been avoided. But Mr. Chamberlain's rebuke was disregarded. The senseless and unnatural alliance between the Afrikander nationalists and the Liberal Opposition was renewed. It is quite true that the official leader of the Opposition, in speaking at Glasgow on June 7th, two days after Lord Roberts had occupied Pretoria, declared that, in respect of the settlement, "one broad principle" must be laid down—
"the British Imperial power, which has hitherto been supreme in effect in South Africa, must in future be supreme in form as well as in effect, and this naturally carries with it the point which is sometimes put in the foreground, namely, that there must be no possibility that any such outbreak of hostilities as we have been witnessing shall again occur.... The two conquered States must, in some form or under some condition, become States of the British Empire."
But when Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman proceeded to inform his audience how this was to be done, he used expressions which not only robbed his original statement of all significance as an indication of British unanimity, but conveyed a direct intimation to the Afrikander nationalists that their endeavours to frustrate the declared objects of the Unionist Government would receive the support and encouragement of the Opposition in England. His words were:
"We need have no doubt how it is to be done. By applying our Liberal principles, the Liberal principles from which the strength of the Empire has been derived, and on which it depends. Let us apply our Liberal principles, and whether our party be in a majority, or in a minority, I think that it is well in our power to secure that these principles shall be applied. [The General Election was imminent.] Let us restore as early as possible, and let us maintain, those rights of self-government which give not only life and vigour, but contentment and loyalty to every colony which enjoys them...."
"Liberal principles," when applied to a given administrative problem, as Mr. Chamberlain took occasion to point out (June 19th), meant, for practical purposes, the opinions which prominent members of the Liberal party were known to hold upon the matter in question. Lord (then Mr.) Courtney was for autonomy—"the re-establishment of the independence of the two Republics." Mr. Bryce advocated "the establishment of two protected States, which would have a sham independence of not much advantage to them for any practical or useful purpose, but very dangerous to us." And then there was Mr. Morley. Now Mr. Morley, only a week before, at Oxford (June 10th), had condemned not only the war, but by implication, the rejection of President Krueger's illusory Franchise Bill.
[Sidenote: Mr. John Morley.]
"I assert," said Mr. Morley, "that the evils which have resulted from the war immeasurably transcend the evils with which it was proposed to deal.... I abhor the whole transaction of the war. I think in many ways it is an irreparable situation. We have done a great wrong—a wrong of which I believe there is scarcely any Englishman living who will not bitterly repent."
[Footnote 212: Mr. Morley has the doubtful merit of consistency. As recently as April 27th, 1906, he alluded to the South African War as "that delusive and guilty war," in an address to the Eighty Club. According to The Times report this expression was received with cheers.]
With these words fresh in his memory, Mr. Chamberlain continued:
"Is Mr. Morley a Liberal? I do not know in that case what would become of the new territories if his principles were applied. But this I do know—that in that case you would have immediately to get rid of Sir Alfred Milner, who is the one great official in South Africa who has shown from the first a true grasp of the situation; and you would have also to get rid of the Colonial Secretary, which would not, perhaps, matter."
[Footnote 213: It may perhaps be objected that some credit should have been allowed to Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman in view of the fact that a sum of L41,807,400 was voted in Committee of Supply in the House of Commons for military requirements, practically without discussion, within four and a half hours on June 19th, 1900. This objection is answered by the words used by the Duke of Devonshire on the same day: "I am afraid I must tell Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman that he is not likely to receive from us any recognition, either effusive or otherwise, of the patriotism of his party. It is quite true that, as he took credit to himself and his friends, they have not offered any opposition to our demands for supplies or to the military measures which it has been found necessary for the Government to take; but the reason for that prudent abstinence is not very far to seek. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman and his friends knew very well that any factious opposition to the granting of these supplies would have brought down upon them the almost unanimous condemnation of the whole people; and Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman is much too shrewd and sensible a man to risk the danger of committing for his party an act of political suicide."—Address to Women's Liberal Unionist Association.]
And so in 1900—after the Raid, after the long diplomatic conflict, after the sudden revelation of the military strength of the Republics, after the ambitions of the Afrikander nationalists had been unmasked, and after the Dutch subjects of the Queen had risen in arms—the Liberal friends of the South African Dutch set themselves to do again what they had done in 1880. Just as then President Krueger wrote, on behalf of himself and his Afrikander allies, to Lord (then Mr.) Courtney: "The fall of Sir Bartle Frere ... will be useful.... We have done our duty, and used all legitimate influence to cause the [Federation] proposals to fail"; so now these Boer sympathisers prepared to work hand in hand with the Afrikander nationalists in their endeavour to secure the "fall" of Lord Milner, and to cause the Annexation proposals to "fail." Happily the analogy ends here. Upon the "anvil" of Lord Milner the "hammers" of the enemies of the Empire were worn out—Tritantur mallei, remanet incus.
[Footnote 214: June 26th, 1880, C. 2,655.]
THE "CONCILIATION" MOVEMENT
The correspondence forwarded to the Colonial Office during the first half of the year 1900 by Lord Milner, and presented to the House of Commons in time for the Settlement debate of July 25th, furnishes a complete record of the origin of the "conciliation" movement. The whole of this interesting and significant collection of documents is worthy of attention; but all that can be done here is to direct the notice of the reader to one or two of its more salient features—features which illustrate the extraordinary condition of the Cape Colony, and explain how the disaffection of the Dutch subjects of the Crown was to be first aggravated, and then used as a means of saving the independence of the Republics. The position taken up by the Bond at the end of January (1900) in view of Mr. Schreiner's gradual conversion to the side of the Imperial Government, is sufficiently indicated in the resolution prepared for submission to the annual Congress, to which reference has been already made. It was, in effect, a condemnation not only of the British Government, but of the Cape Government also, in so far as it had co-operated with the Imperial authorities, and a determination to prevent the war from being carried to a logical and successful conclusion by the incorporation of the Boer Republics into the system of British South Africa. The annual Congress, at which these opinions were to be affirmed, was announced to be held at Somerset East, on March 8th. Lord Milner, however, represented to Mr. Schreiner that it was very undesirable that such a demonstration should take place; and, through Mr. Schreiner's influence, the Congress was postponed. But the Prime Minister, in undertaking to use his influence with the Bond to prevent a denunciation of the policy of the Imperial Government at so critical a period, expressed the hope that the loyalists on their side would refrain from any public demonstration of an opposite character.
[Footnote 215: See p. 349.]
This abstinence from agitation, which was obviously desirable in the public interests at a time of intense political excitement, by no means suited the leaders of the Bond. Ons Land, in commenting upon the postponement of the Congress, incidentally reveals the real consideration which made it worth while for the Bond to promote an agitation of this kind. The Bond organ regrets that the Congress has been postponed. And why?
"It is said that the [South African] League would have held a Congress had the Bond Congress been held. We have nothing to do with what the League does or does not do; as a matter of fact, its opinion has already been published in the Imperial Blue-books. We were of opinion that it would have been the duty of the Afrikander party to express itself at the Congress in unmistakable terms, and resolutely, in order thereby to maintain its true position and strengthen the hands of its friends in England who have courageously and with self-sacrifice striven for the good and just cause."
[Footnote 216: Cd. 261.]
This, then, was the real object of the agitation—to "strengthen the hands of the friends of the Afrikander party in England." The writer of this article suggests, however, that there is still a prospect that the "good cause" may be promoted, after all, in the way which he desires.
[Sidenote: Origin of the movement.]
This prospect was speedily realised. With characteristic astuteness, the Bond leaders discovered a method by which their object could be achieved without exposing themselves to the reproach of "stirring up strife." The meetings were to be held, not as Bond meetings, but as "conciliation" meetings. The manner in which the machinery of the conciliation movement was originally set in motion will appear from the following telegram, which President Krueger sent to President Steyn, on January 20th—that is, a little more than a month before the Bond Congress was postponed:
"A certain E. T. Hargrove, an English journalist, about whom Dr. Leyds formerly wrote that he had done much in Holland to work up the peace memorial to Queen Victoria, has come here, as he says, from Sauer and Merriman, who are ready to range themselves openly on our side, to make propaganda in the Cape Colony, provided an official declaration is given that the Republics only desire to secure complete independence. He wished that I should write a letter to Queen Victoria, but this I refused, and thought it desirable that I should write a letter to him personally, in which an answer is given to his question. He thinks that a great propaganda can be made in the Cape Colony, whereby influence can be brought to bear again on the English people and the world. I myself do not expect much result, but think that a letter can do good, and should be glad to have your opinion and observations as soon as possible."
[Footnote 217: Cd. 261.]
This telegram, one of the many documents found at Bloemfontein upon its occupation by Lord Roberts, is supplemented by the further facts disclosed by the investigations of the Concessions Commission, that a sum of L1,000 was advanced to Mr. Hargrove by the manager of the Netherlands Railway on February 3rd, 1900, and that this loan, paid in specie, was "debited to the account 'Political Situation,' to be hereafter arranged with the Government." The purposes for which Mr. Hargrove secured this large sum are stated in the following question and answer:
[Sidenote: Mr. Hargrove's L1,000.]
Q. 591. "Did he ask for money to carry out this object [i.e. to stop the war on the assurance that the Boers wanted nothing more than their independence]?"
MR. J. VAN KRETSCHMAR, General Manager of the Netherlands South African Railway Company: "Yes; he said he had travelling expenses to defray, a lot of publications to issue, and books to be written, and he asked for money for these purposes."
[Footnote 218: Cd. 624. The memorandum also noted that the L1,000 was "paid at request of F. W. Reitz" (the State Secretary). In the Concessions Commission the following letter is published:
"GOVERNMENT OFFICES, PRETORIA. 7 April, 1899.
TO VAN KRETSCHMAR VAN VEEN, ESQ., DIRECTOR OF THE N.Z.A. RY. CO.
HON'D. SIR,—With reference to a letter of his Excellency the Ambassador, dated 23 March last, with reference to Mr. Statham and the latter's request for an assistance of L300 for furniture and such like, I have the honour to inform you confidentially that the Executive Council has resolved to grant this gentleman Statham an amount of L150. As, according to previous agreement, a yearly allowance is paid to Mr. Statham by your Company, I have the honour to request you kindly to pay out to the said Mr. Statham the sum granted him. His Excellency the Ambassador is likewise being informed of this decision of the Executive Council.—I have, etc.,
J. W. REITZ, State Secretary." (Q. 608.)
Mr. Statham is understood to have been a frequent contributor to those Liberal journals which sympathised with the Boer cause. His allowance, however, had ceased before the war broke out.]
Three months later President Krueger's telegram was laid before the two ministers whose names it contained by Mr. Schreiner, at Lord Milner's request, in order that they might have an opportunity of "repudiating or explaining the allegations affecting themselves which it contained." Both Mr. Merriman and Mr. Sauer denied that Mr. Hargrove had received any authority from them to use their names "in the manner which he appeared to have done." And on April 19th Mr. Merriman himself wrote to Mr. Hargrove to ask for an explanation. To this letter Mr. Hargrove replied immediately:
"This is not an answer to your note of this date, but is to ask you to allow me to show your note to a friend of yours and of mine. As it is marked 'private' I cannot do this until I hear from you. Would you be so good as to send word by the driver of the cab which waits?..."
In a second letter, written on the same day (April 19th), and presumably after he had consulted the mutual friend in question, Mr. Hargrove wrote:
"Knowing as you do that I never told you of my proposed trip to Pretoria, that I never talked the matter over with you in any shape or form, you may be sure that when I got there I did not speak or make promises in your behalf. But I did mention your name in this way: I told President Krueger of a conversation I had had with Mr. Sauer, in which I had asked him what his attitude would be in the event of the Republics offering to withdraw their forces from colonial territory on the condition that their independence would be recognised. Mr. Sauer's reply was that, in those circumstances he would, in his personal capacity, most certainly urge the acceptance of that offer, and that, although he could speak for himself only, he thought it probable you would do the same."
Mr. Hargrove adds that the "misconception" embodied in President Krueger's telegram is due to the circumstance that it was probably "dictated in a hurry, amidst a rush of other business," and contained a "hasty and more or less careless account" of a "long talk" translated to the President by Mr. Reitz from English into Dutch.
Mr. Hargrove at the same time forwarded a copy of this letter to Mr. Sauer. With this latter minister of the Crown he enjoyed a more intimate acquaintance, since, as Lord Milner points out, he had been Mr. Sauer's travelling companion during this latter's "well-meant, but unsuccessful, journey to Wodehouse, which was immediately followed by the rebellion of that district."
[Footnote 219: In his covering despatch, Cd. 261, p. 126. For the circumstances of Mr. Sauer's visit to Dordrecht on the occasion mentioned see note, p. 287.]
[Sidenote: The Graaf Reinet congress.]
This, then, was the character of the man who travelled throughout the Colony, addressing meetings of the Dutch population, in order that "the hands of the friends of the Afrikander party in England might be strengthened." At the People's Congress, held at Graaf Reinet (May 30th) he rose to his full stature. "The worst foes of the British Empire," he said, "were not the Boers, but those who had set up the howl for annexation." And he concluded by urging his audience to renew their hopes, for he believed that "if they did everything in their power to show what was right they would win in the end." On the following day Mr. Hargrove was asked, in the name of the Congress, to continue his agitation in England. The Congress, however, did not propose to rely exclusively upon Mr. Hargrove's efforts. It resolved to send a deputation of Cape colonists "to tell the simple truth as they know it" to the people of Great Britain and Ireland.
[Footnote 220: As reported in The Cape Times, Cd. 261.]
There is one other fact which is disclosed by this official correspondence from the High Commissioner to the Secretary of State which cannot be overlooked. Mr. Merriman and Mr. Sauer both repudiated absolutely President Krueger's statement that Mr. Hargrove "had come here [i.e. to Pretoria], as he says, from Sauer and Merriman." In view of this repudiation, it is somewhat startling to find that the letters covering the minutes of the conciliation meetings, forwarded to Lord Milner from time to time with the request that they may be sent on to the Colonial Office, bear the signature of Mr. Albert Cartwright, as honorary secretary of the Conciliation Committee of South Africa. Mr. Albert Cartwright was editor of The South African News—that is to say, of the journal which, as we have noticed before, served as the medium for the expression of the political views of Mr. Merriman and Mr. Sauer. At the period in question The South African News rendered itself notorious by circulating the absurd, but none the less injurious, report that General Buller and his army had surrendered to the Boers in Natal and agreed to return to England on parole; by publishing stories of imaginary Boer victories; by eulogising Mr. Hargrove, whose acceptance of the L1,000 from the Netherlands Railway it definitely denied; and by its persistent and vehement denunciations of Lord Milner. At a later period Mr. Cartwright was convicted of a defamatory libel on Lord Kitchener, and condemned to a term of imprisonment.
[Footnote 221: See p. 477.]
[Sidenote: Mischievous effects.]
The situation thus brought about is described by Lord Milner in a passage in the despatch which covers the transmission of the newspaper report of the People's Congress at Graaf Reinet. After stating that in return for Mr. Schreiner's efforts to secure the postponement of the Bond Congress, he had himself persuaded the leaders of the Progressive party to abstain from any public demonstration of their opinions, he writes:
[Footnote 222: Cd. 261, despatch of June 6th, 1900.]
"There was a truce of God on both sides. Then came the 'conciliation' movement, and the country was stirred from end to end by a series of meetings much more violent and mischievous than the regular Bond Congress would have been, though, of course, on the same lines. The truce being thus broken, it would have been useless—and, as a matter of fact, I did not attempt—to restrain an expression of opinion on the other side. Hence the long series of meetings held in British centres to pronounce in favour of the annexation of both Republics, and to give cordial support to the policy of Her Majesty's Government and myself personally. On the whole, the utterances at these meetings have been marked by a moderation totally absent in the tone of the conciliators. But no doubt a certain number of violent things have been said, and a certain amount of unnecessary heat generated. I do not think, however, that those [the loyalists] who have held these meetings, under extraordinary provocation, are greatly to blame if this has occasionally been the case."
That the "conciliation" movement exercised a most injurious influence in a colony of which a considerable area was in rebellion or under martial law, and where the majority of the inhabitants were in sympathy with the enemy is obvious. But from the point of view of the Afrikander nationalists it was an intelligible and effective method of promoting the objects which they had in view. What is amazing is the part which was played in it by Englishmen, and the confident manner in which the promoters of the movement relied upon the political co-operation of the friends of the Boers in the ranks of the Liberal party in England. Every Afrikander who attended these meetings knew that he was doing his best to arouse hatred against the Englishman and sympathy for the Boer. The nature of the resolutions to which he gave his adherence left him in no doubt on this point.
"The war," said Mr. A. B. de Villiers, at the People's Congress, "was the most unrighteous war that was ever pursued. The simple aim was to seize the Republics. If that was persisted in, Afrikanders would not rest.... Britain would efface the Republics and make the people slaves. Race hatred would then be prolonged from generation to generation."
To publish abroad such opinions as these was obviously to invite rebellion in the Cape Colony, to encourage the resistance of the Boers, and to embarrass the British authorities, both civil and military, throughout South Africa. This was precisely what the Afrikander nationalist desired to do. But what is to be thought of the Englishmen who, both in the Cape Colony and in England, took part in this "conciliation" movement? Surely they did not desire these same results. Were they, then, the comrades or the dupes of the Afrikander nationalists? This is a question upon which the individual reader may be left to form his own judgment.
[Sidenote: Comrades or dupes.]
This much, at least, is certain. What gave the Afrikander nationalists the power to bring about the second invasion of the Cape Colony, and to inflict a year and a half of guerilla warfare upon South Africa, was the co-operation of these Englishmen—whether comrades or dupes—who opposed the annexation of the Republics. The intense sympathy felt by the Afrikanders for their defeated kinsmen was natural; but the means by which it was enflamed were artificial. Lord Milner himself, with his accustomed serenity of judgment, refused to take a "gloomy view" of the question of racial relations in the Colony, still less in South Africa as a whole.
"If it is true," he wrote on June 6th, "as the 'conciliators' are never tired of threatening us, that race hatred will be eternal, why should they make such furious efforts to keep it up at the present moment? The very vehemence of their declarations that the Afrikanders will never forgive, nor forget, nor acquiesce, seems to me to indicate a considerable and well-justified anxiety on their part lest these terrible things should, after all, happen."
But while the Cape Colony was in the throes of this agitation, British soldiers were gallantly fighting their way to Johannesburg and Pretoria. During the six weeks of Lord Roberts's "prolonged and enforced halt" at Bloemfontein (March 13th—May 1st), and subsequently, while the Army was advancing upon the Transvaal, considerable progress was made in the work of clearing the Colony of the republican invaders and re-establishing British authority in the districts in which the Dutch had risen in rebellion. In the course of these operations a large number of rebels had fallen into the hands of the Imperial military authorities, and it was the question of the treatment of these colonial rebels that was destined to bring Mr. Schreiner into direct conflict with those of his ministers who still held the opinions of the Bond.
[Sidenote: The punishment of rebels.]
In the middle of April Lord Milner had received from Mr. Chamberlain a despatch containing a preliminary statement of the opinion of the Home Government upon the two questions of the compensation of loyalists and the punishment of rebels, and on April 14th he requested his ministers to give formal expression to their views upon the subjects to which Mr. Chamberlain had drawn his attention. A fortnight later Lord Milner reported to the Home Government the conclusions at which Mr. Schreiner and his fellow-ministers had arrived. Trial by jury for persons indicted for high treason must be abandoned, since it would be impossible for the Crown to obtain the necessary convictions, and a special tribunal must be established by statute. As regards the nature of the punishment to be inflicted upon the rebels, Mr. Schreiner wrote:
"Ministers submit that the ends of justice would be served by the selection of a certain limited number of the principal offenders, whose trials would mark the magnitude of their offence and whose punishment, if found guilty, would act as a deterrent. For the remainder, ministers believe that the interests both of sound policy and of public morality would be served if Her Gracious Majesty were moved to issue, as an act of grace, a Proclamation of amnesty under which, upon giving proper security for their good behaviour, all persons chargeable with high treason, except those held for trial, might be enlarged and allowed to return to their avocations."
[Footnote 223: Cd. 264.]
The substance of the Ministers' Minutes containing these conclusions, and the arguments by which they were supported—notably an appeal to the "Canadian precedent"—were telegraphed to the Home Government, and on May 4th Mr. Chamberlain replied, also by telegram. While the people of Great Britain were animated by no vindictive feeling against "those who had been or were in arms against Her Majesty's forces, whether enemies or rebels"—did, in fact, desire that all racial animosity should disappear in South Africa at the earliest possible moment after the war was over—the "sentiments of both sides" must be taken into consideration. The consequences which would ensue from "the rankling sense of injustice" that would arise if the rebels were actually placed in a better position after the struggle was over than those who had risked life and property in the determination to remain "loyal to their Queen and flag," would be no less serious than the bad results to be anticipated from any display of a revengeful policy on the part of the loyalists. He continued:
"Clemency to rebels is a policy which has the hearty sympathy of Her Majesty's Government, but justice to loyalists is an obligation of duty and honour. The question is, how can these two policies be harmonised? It is clear that, in the interest of future peace, it is necessary to show that rebellion cannot be indulged in with impunity, and above all that, if unsuccessful, it is not a profitable business for the rebel. Otherwise the State would be offering a premium to rebellion. The present moment, therefore, while the war is still proceeding, and while efforts may still be made to tempt British subjects into rebellious courses, is in any case not appropriate for announcing that such action may be indulged in with absolute impunity. And if, as has been suggested, a great many of the Queen's rebellious subjects are the mere tools of those who have deceived them, it is important that these should be made aware individually that, whatever their leaders may tell them, rebellion is a punishable offence.
[Sidenote: Clemency and justice.]
"Up to this time very lenient treatment has been meted out to rebels. Although, according to the law of the Cape Colony, and under martial law, the punishment of death might have been inflicted, in no case has any rebel suffered the capital penalty, and the vast majority have been permitted for the present to return to their homes and to resume their occupations. There are many degrees in the crime of rebellion. Her Majesty's Government desire that in any case means shall be found for dealing effectually with: (1) The ringleaders and promoters; (2) those who have committed outrages or looted the property of their loyal fellow-subjects; (3) those who have committed acts contrary to the usages of civilised warfare, such as abuse of the white flag, firing on hospitals, etc. There remain (4) those who, though not guilty, of either of those offences, have openly and willingly waged war against Her Majesty's forces; (5) those who confined themselves to aiding Her Majesty's enemies by giving information or furnishing provisions; and (6) those who can satisfactorily prove that they acted under compulsion. In the opinion of Her Majesty's Government a distinction ought to be, if possible, drawn between these different classes.
"Her Majesty's Government recognise the difficulty of indicting for high treason all who have taken part with the enemy, and they would suggest, for the consideration of your ministers, the expediency of investing either the Special Judicial Commission which, as stated in your telegram of 28th April, is contemplated by your ministers, or a separate Commission, with powers to schedule the names of all persons implicated in the rebellion under the various heads indicated above. It would be necessary to decide beforehand how the different categories should then be dealt with. As regards 1, 2, and 3, they would, of course, be brought before the Judicial Commission and tried by them. Might not 4 and 5 be allowed to plead guilty, and be thereupon either sentenced to a fine carrying with it disfranchisement, or released on recognisances, to come up for judgment when called upon (this also to involve disfranchisement), while 6 might be subjected to disfranchisement alone? Her Majesty's Government offer these as suggestions for the consideration of your ministers.
"In regard to the reasons urged by your ministers in favour of a general amnesty, Her Majesty's Government would point out that they are of a highly controversial character, and it is impossible to discuss them fully at a moment when an indication of the views of Her Majesty's Government is urgently required. Her Majesty's Government would only observe that the policy which they have indicated in this telegram appears to them to be one not merely of justice, but of clemency, which the whole white population of the Colony might well accept as satisfactory, and which should not, any more than the ordinary administration of justice, encourage the natives to think that the two white races are permanently disunited, while with especial reference to the third reason, it may be observed that the expediency of the action to be taken in such cases depends upon circumstances which must vary greatly according to date and locality. In Lower Canada in 1837-38 there was a revolt during peace against the Queen's authority, founded on grievances under constitutional conditions which were recognised as unsatisfactory by the Government of the day, and altered by subsequent legislation. In the Cape there has been adhesion to the Queen's enemies during war by those who have not even the pretext of any grievance, and who have for a generation enjoyed full constitutional liberty. In Canada the insurrection was never a formidable one from a military point of view; in the Cape it has added very largely to the cost and difficulty of the war, and has entailed danger and heavy loss to Her Majesty's troops."
[Footnote 224: Cd. 264.]
[Sidenote: The ministry divided.]
This estimate of the guilt of the Cape rebels—moderate in the light of British colonial history, merciful beyond dispute as judged by the practice of foreign States—failed to commend itself to the Afrikander Ministry. On May 29th, when the full text of the Cape ministers' minutes and enclosures had reached the Colonial Office, Lord Milner inquired of Mr. Chamberlain, on behalf of his ministers, whether the disfranchisement proposed was for life or for a period only; and further, whether, in view of their fuller knowledge of the representations of the Cape Ministry, the views of the Home Government were still to be accepted as those expressed in the despatch of May 4th. To these questions Mr. Chamberlain replied, by telegram, on June 10th, that the Government continued to hold the opinion that the policy already suggested should be substantially adhered to; while, as to the period of disfranchisement, he pointed out that—
"conviction and sentence for high treason carried with it disfranchisement for life, and if the offenders were spared the other and severer penalties of rebellion, justice seemed to demand that they should suffer the full political penalty. Disfranchisement for life did not seem to Her Majesty's Government to be a very serious punishment for rebellion."
[Sidenote: Mr. Schreiner resigns.]
On June 11th Lord Milner was informed by Mr. Schreiner that ministers were hopelessly divided on the subject of the treatment of the rebels, and that their differences could not be composed, and on the following day he replied that, if he could not receive the support of a unanimous Cabinet to which he, as Governor, was constitutionally entitled, he would be compelled, in the discharge of his duty, to seek it elsewhere. Mr. Schreiner's resignation, which was placed in Lord Milner's hands on the next day, was followed by the appointment, on June 18th, of a Progressive Ministry with Sir Gordon Sprigg as Prime Minister and Sir James Rose Innes as Attorney-General. Mr. Schreiner, in his memorandum of June 11th, had forwarded to Lord Milner documents containing particulars of the individual views of the members of his Cabinet. Mr. Solomon, the Attorney-General, was prepared to adopt a policy in respect of the treatment of the rebels, and the machinery by which that policy was to be carried out, which appeared to him to involve nothing that would prevent "complete accord between Her Majesty's Government and this Government on the question." And in this view both Mr. Schreiner and Mr. Herholdt concurred. But the remaining members of the Cabinet were entirely opposed to any policy other than that of granting a general amnesty to all rebels except the "principal offenders," and allowing these latter to be tried by the machinery of justice already in existence—i.e. by Afrikander juries. The minutes which they respectively addressed to the Prime Minister were bitter invectives directed alike against the Home Government and Lord Milner.
"We are asked," Mr. Merriman wrote, on his own and Mr. Sauer's behalf, with reference to the suggestions of the Home Government, "to deal with a number of men who have, at worst, taken up arms in what they, however erroneously, considered to be a righteous war—a war in which they joined the Queen's enemies to resist what prominent men both here and in England have repeatedly spoken of as a crime.... These men, irrespective of class, we are asked to put under a common political proscription, to deprive them of their civil rights, and by so doing (in fact, this is the main commendation of the measure to the "loyals") to deprive their friends and kinsfolk, who have rendered the Colony yeoman service at the most critical time, of that legitimate influence which belongs to a majority. We are asked, in fact, to create a class of political 'helots' in South Africa, where we are now waging a bloody and costly war ostensibly for the purpose of putting an end to a similar state of affairs."
Of course, all this and much more might have been read at any time since the war began in the columns of The South African News, but in a minister's memorandum to the Prime Minister, and over the signature "John X. Merriman," its naked hostility arrests the mind. Dr. Te Water's memorandum, although much shorter than that of Mr. Merriman, is even more outspoken. To him, the direct representative of the republican nationalists in the Afrikander Cabinet, amnesty for the rebels is the "sound and proper policy." And naturally, since in his eyes the rebels themselves are—
"British subjects of Dutch extraction who, after vainly endeavouring, by all possible constitutional means, to prevent what they, in common with the rest of the civilised world, believe to be an unjust and infamous war against their near kinsmen, aided the Republics in the terrible struggle forced upon them."
[Footnote 225: Cd. 264.]
[Sidenote: A progressive ministry.]
This is vitriol-throwing, but it is none the less significant. These three men formed half of the six ministers to whom collectively, Lord Milner, as Governor of the Cape Colony, had to look for advice during the two critical years that the Afrikander party was in power. Fortunately, in his capacity of High Commissioner for South Africa, he was free to act without their advice, as the representative of the Queen. Even so, his achievement is little less than marvellous. Aided by Mr. Schreiner's pathetic sense of loyalty to the person of the sovereign, he had kept the Cape Government outwardly true to its allegiance. The long hours of patient remonstrance, the word-battles from which the Prime Minister had risen sometimes white with passionate resentment, had not been useless. By tact, by serenity of disposition, by depth of conviction, and latterly by sheer force of argument, Lord Milner had won Mr. Schreiner, not indeed to the side of England, but at least to the side of that Empire-State of which England was the head. With the Prime Minister went Sir Richard Solomon, Mr. Herholdt, and one or two of the Afrikander rank and file. Thus reinforced, the Progressives commanded a working majority in the Legislative Assembly, and the ascendancy of the Afrikander party was at an end.
Apart from the secession of Mr. Schreiner and his immediate followers, the Parliamentary strength of the Afrikander party was lessened by another circumstance, to which Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman referred in the debate on the South African Settlement in the House of Commons on July 25th. Certain members of the Cape Parliament, said the leader of the Liberal Opposition, had been arrested for high treason, with the result that the Afrikander party was deprived of their votes, and the balance of power between that party and the Progressive party was upset. And he protested against this manner of turning an Afrikander majority into a minority. The reply which these remarks on the part of this friend of the Afrikander party in England drew from the Government is instructive:
"May I remind the right honourable gentleman," said Mr. Balfour, "that the balance of parties was disturbed by another and different cause on which he has made no protest? Some members of that Parliament, not sharing the views of those who are imprisoned, are now fighting at the front and risking their lives in the defence of the Empire. Their party is deprived of their services in the Cape Parliament, and I should have thought that this would have affected the right honourable gentleman much more than the absence of men who, under any circumstances, must be supposed to be under the darkest suspicion as to their view and policy respecting the country to which they owe allegiance."
The Cape Parliament met under the new Ministry in July, and the chief business of the session, which lasted until the middle of October, was the passing of the Treason Bill. On July 9th Lord Milner was able to inform Mr. Chamberlain (by telegram) that the Bill had been prepared, and to indicate the nature of its main provisions. These were: (1) An indemnity for acts done under martial law; (2) the establishment of a Special Court to try cases in which the Attorney-General might decide to indict any person for high treason, such cases to be tried without a jury; (3) the establishment of a Special Commission to "deal with rebels not so indicted and to punish all found guilty with disfranchisement for five years from the date of conviction"; and (4) the legalisation of the already existing Compensation Commission. In a despatch dated July 26th—the day after the Settlement debate in the House of Commons—Mr. Chamberlain replied at length to the arguments put forward by the Schreiner Ministry in favour of a general amnesty, and exposed in particular the historical inaccuracy of the appeal to the "Canadian precedent." At the same time he stated that Her Majesty's Government, while they could not be a consenting party to a policy condoning adhesion to the enemy in the field, had no doubt that "such a measure of penalty as the mass of loyal opinion in the Colony considered adequate would meet with their concurrence." That is to say, the proposal of the Home Government for disfranchisement for life was not pressed, but was abandoned in favour of the lenient penalty originally proposed by Sir Richard Solomon, independently of any consideration of the views of the Colonial Office, and now adopted by the Progressive Ministry.
[Sidenote: The treason bill.]
In spite of its leniency, the Treason Bill met with the violent and protracted resistance of the Afrikander party in the Legislative Assembly. The opportunity thus afforded for the delivery of fierce invectives against the Imperial authorities was utilised to the full, and the fires of disaffection lighted by the "Conciliation" meetings were kindled anew into the second and more disastrous conflagration that culminated in the proceedings of the Worcester Conference (December 6th). In the Cape Parliamentary Reports the picture of this nightmare session is to be found faithfully presented in all its ugly and grotesque details. Two facts will serve to show to what a degree the members of the Legislative Assembly of this British colony had identified themselves with the cause of the enemy. The first is the circumstance that it was a common practice of the Afrikander members to refer in Parliament to the military successes of the Boers with pride as "our" victories. The second is the fact that Mr. Sauer, only three months ago a minister of the Crown, declared, in opposing the second reading of the Bill, that "a time would come when there would be very few Dutchmen who would not blush when they told their children that they had not helped their fellow-countrymen in their hour of need." Morally, though not legally, the Afrikander members had gone over to the enemy no less than the rebels who had taken up arms against their sovereign. This was the "loyalty" of the Bond.
[Footnote 226: Cape Times, August 23rd, 1900.]
[Sidenote: Milner visits the colonies.]
The Treason Bill was promulgated, under the title of "The Indemnity and Special Tribunals Act, 1900," on October 12th. On the same day Lord Milner left Capetown for a brief visit to the Transvaal and Orange River Colony. The intention of the Home Government to place the administrative and economic reconstruction of the new colonies in his hands had been made known to him informally; and it was obviously desirable, therefore, that he should acquaint himself with the actual state of affairs as soon as possible. After a somewhat adventurous journey through the Orange River Colony, he reached Pretoria on the 15th, and remained at the capital until the 22nd. He then proceeded to Johannesburg, where he spent the next three days (October 22nd to 25th). At both places he made provisional arrangements, in consultation with Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener, for the early establishment of so much of the machinery of civil administration as the exigencies of the military situation permitted. Leaving Johannesburg on the 25th, the High Commissioner stopped for the night at Kroonstad, en route for Bloemfontein. On the morning following he woke up to find the train still motionless, since the line had been cut by the Boers—an almost daily occurrence at this period of the war. After a few hours, however, the journey was resumed; but the High Commissioner's train was preceded by an armoured train as far as Smalldeel, from which point it ran without escort to Bloemfontein, where he remained until November 1st. Here, in addition to making the necessary arrangements for the beginning of civil administration in the Orange River Colony, Lord Milner had the satisfaction of inaugurating the career of the South African Constabulary under the command of Major-General Baden-Powell. The departure from Bloemfontein was delayed for a few hours by the destruction of the span of a railway bridge by the Boers; but at 12 o'clock the High Commissioner's train, again preceded by its armoured companion, was able to resume its journey southwards. In the course of the following day (November 2nd) the English mail, going northwards from Capetown, was met, and among other communications which Lord Milner then received was the despatch of October 18th enclosing the commissions under which he was appointed to administer the new colonies upon Lord Roberts's approaching return to England.
Lord Milner arrived at Capetown on November 3rd. During his three weeks' absence the situation in the Cape Colony had changed for the worse. After the Treason Bill debates the anti-British propaganda, still carried on under the grotesque pretence of promoting "conciliation," had taken a different and more sinister form. To their denunciation of the Home Government and its treatment of the Republics, the Afrikander nationalists now added slander and abuse of the British and colonial troops in South Africa. In order to understand how such calumnies were possible in the face of the singular humanity with which the military operations of the Imperial troops had been conducted, a brief reference to the course of the war is necessary. The change from regular to guerilla warfare initiated by the Boer leaders in the later months of this year (1900), and the consequent withdrawal of British garrisons from insecurely held districts both in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, were accompanied by the return to arms of many burghers who, on taking the oath of neutrality, had been allowed to resume their civil occupations. This breach of faith, whether voluntary or compulsory, compelled the British military commanders to adopt measures of greater severity in the operations undertaken for the reconquest of the revolted areas. The punishment inflicted upon the inhabitants of such areas, especially those adjoining the colonial border, although merciful in comparison with the penalties actually incurred under the laws of war by those who, having surrendered, resumed their arms, was considerably more rigorous than the treatment to which the republican Dutch had been originally subjected. This legitimate and necessary increase of severity, displayed by the British commanders in districts where the burghers had surrendered, and then taken up arms a second, or even a third time, was the sole basis of fact upon which the Afrikander nationalists in the Cape Colony founded the vast volume of imaginary outrage and inhumanity on the part of the Imperial troops which Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman was held subsequently to have endorsed by accusing the British Government of carrying on the war in South Africa by "methods of barbarism."
[Footnote 227: June 14th; 1901 (Holborn Restaurant, and elsewhere later). "Whatever Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman may think or say, the German nation may think or say."—The Vossische Zeitung.]
[Sidenote: Libels on the British troops.]
The weapon now adopted for the anti-British campaign was the circulation through the Bond Press, Dutch and English, of accounts of cruel or infamous acts alleged to have been committed by British soldiers, and described with every detail calculated to arouse the passionate resentment of the colonial Dutch. There is only one way in which the reader can be brought to understand the wantonly false and wholly disgraceful character of these libels. It is to place before his eyes the literal translation of two examples, printed in Dutch in The Worcester Advertiser of November 23rd, 1900; that is to say, in anticipation of the People's Congress, which was to be held less than a fortnight later (December 6th) at the little town in the Western Province so named. The article is headed: "Dreadful Murders perpetrated on Farmers, Women, and Children, near Boshoff:
[Sidenote: Two examples.]
"... This unfortunate man [a Boer prisoner] left behind him his dear wife and four children. One or two days after his departure there came a couple of heroes in the house of the unfortunate woman, locked the doors and set fire to the curtains. The woman, awfully frightened by it, was in a cruel way handled by these ruffians, and compelled to make known where the guns and ammunition were hidden. The poor woman, surrounded by her dear children (who were from time to time pushed back by these soldiers), answered that she could swear before the holy God that there was not a single gun or cartridge or anything of that sort hidden on that farm. In the meantime the curtains were destroyed by the smoke and flames to ashes. The house, at least, was not attacked by the flames, but the low, mean lot put at the four corners of the house a certain amount of dynamite, to destroy it in this way.
"The heroic warrior and commander over a portion of the civilised (?) British troops knocked with great force at the door of the house—where still the poor wife and children were upon their knees praying to the Heavenly Father for deliverance—saying, 'I give you ten minutes' time to acquaint me and point out to me where the weapons and ammunition are hidden, and if you do not comply I shall make the house and all fly into the air.' The poor wife fell upon her knees before the cruel man; prayed the cruel man to spare her and her children, where God was her witness there was nothing of the kind on the farm, neither was there anything stowed away in the house.
"Standing before him, as if deprived of her senses, [was] the poor wife with her four innocent children, and when the ten minutes had expired house and all were blown to atoms with dynamite, and [there were] laid in ruins, the bodies of the deplorable five. May the good God receive their souls with Him!...
"A wife of a Transvaal Boer (who is still in the field, fighting for his freedom and right) was lodging with one of her relations, when, two days later, after she had given birth to a baby boy, she was visited by seven warriors, or so-called Tommy Atkins; the young urchin was taken away from its mother by its two legs, by the so-called noble British, and his head battered in against the bed-post until it had breathed its last, and thereupon thrown out by the door as if it was the carcase of a cat or dog. Then these damn wretches began their play with this poor and weak woman, who only 48 hours before was delivered of a child. The poor wife was treated so low and debauched by this seven that she, after a few hours, gave up the spirit, and like her child [was] murdered in the most dissolute manner.... Can we longer allow that our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, relatives, yes, our children, are murdered by these coward and common murderers? or has not the time yet arrived to prevent this civilised nation, or to punish them for their atrocities?"
[Footnote 228: As translated in Blue-book, Cd. 547. Mr. de Jong, the editor of the paper, was prosecuted (and convicted) for the publication of this and another similar article (December 28th).]
On November 26th The South African News published the translation of a letter to the Press, written by a member of the Legislative Assembly, in view of the same meeting:
"I am yet glad that another People's Congress will be held.
"It is our duty to speak now; it is more than time to protest, as British subjects, against the extermination of defenceless women and children....
"But, in Heaven's name, let the Congress be a People's Congress in reality. Let no one or other stay away for one or other small difficulty. Let members of Parliament, clergymen, yes, every man, old or young, be present at Worcester on the 6th of December next. Let them turn up in numbers. Let us use our rights as British subjects in a worthy and decided manner. Let us at least adopt three petitions or resolutions: (1) Praying Her Majesty, our Gracious Queen, to make an end to the burning of homes and the ill-treatment of helpless women and children; if not, that they may be murdered at once, rather than die slowly by hunger and torture; (2) a petition in which it be urged that the war should be ended, and the Republics allowed to retain their independence; and finally, a pledge that those who do not wish to sign these petitions will no longer be supported by us in any way.
"[No shopkeeper, attorney, doctor, master, or any one—no victuals, meat, bread, meal, sheep, oxen, horses, vegetables, fruit whatsoever will he sell to the jingoes until the wrong is righted and compensated.]
"The dam is full. Our nation cannot, dare not, say with Cain, 'Am I my brother's keeper?' There must be a way out for the overflowing water. Disloyal deeds and talk are wrong. But if we, as a nation, as one man, earnestly and decisively lay our hands to the plough in a constitutional manner, and are determined, I trust, through God's help, we shall—yes, we must—win."
The passage placed in brackets, in which this member of the Cape Parliament urges that all who may refuse to sign the two "petitions" should be rigorously boycotted, was omitted—without any indication of omission—by The South African News. Ons Land, on the other hand, expressed approval of the letter as it stood.
[Footnote 229: Cd. 547.]
[Sidenote: The Worcester congress.]
These were the kind of stories, and the kind of appeals, with which the mind of the colonial Dutch had been inflamed by the nationalist leaders when the Worcester Congress met. The gathering is said to have consisted of between 8,000 and 10,000 persons; and its promoters claimed that a far larger number—120,000 persons—were represented by the deputies sent from ninety-seven districts in the Colony. At the close of the meeting a deputation was appointed to lay the resolutions passed by the Congress before the High Commissioner, and request him to bring them officially to the notice of the Home Government. It was composed of Mr. de Villiers, a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church; a member of the Legislative Council; the member of the Legislative Assembly for Worcester, and two others. This deputation was received by Lord Milner at Government House on December 11th, and the circumstances of the remarkable interview which then took place present a striking picture of the state of the Colony at this time, and of the extraordinary attitude which the mass of the Dutch population had assumed towards the representative of their sovereign. It is one of those illuminating occasions in which a whole situation is, as it were, gathered up into a single scene.
The disloyal purpose of the deputation is heightened rather than concealed by the disguise of the constitutional forms in which it is clothed. The scarcely veiled demand for the independence of the Cape Colony, now put forward by the Afrikander nationalists, is as magnificently audacious as the ultimatum. Knowing the infamous character of the methods by which the agitation in favour of the Boers was being promoted, Lord Milner might have been excused if he had given way to some strong expressions of indignation. No such note, however, is heard in his reply. He is as dry and passionless as an attorney receiving his clients. Yet his words are as frank as his manner is composed. To these delegates he speaks the most terrible truths with the same freedom as he would have used, if the business of their errand had been a pleasant interchange of compliments, instead of a grim defiance that might, or might not, be converted from words into deeds.
[Sidenote: Deputation to Lord Milner.]
Lord Milner, who is accompanied only by his private secretary, surprises the deputation at the outset by requesting that the resolutions may be read forthwith in his presence. They are:
"1. We, men and women of South Africa assembled and represented here, having heard the report of the people's deputation to England, and having taken into earnest consideration the deplorable condition into which the peoples of South Africa have been plunged, and the grave dangers threatening our civilisation, record our solemn conviction that the highest interest of South Africa demand (1) A termination of the war now raging, with its untold misery and horror, as well as the burning of houses, the devastation of the country, the extermination of a white nationality, and the treatment to which women and children are subjected, which was bound to leave a lasting legacy of bitterness and hatred, while seriously endangering the future relationship between the forces of civilisation and barbarism in South Africa; and (2) the retention by the Republics of their independence, whereby alone the peace of South Africa can be maintained.
"2. That this meeting desires a full recognition of the right of the people of this Colony to settle and manage its own affairs, and expresses its grave disapproval of the policy pursued and adopted in this matter by the Governor and High Commissioner, Sir Alfred Milner.
"3. That this Congress solemnly pledges itself to labour in a constitutional way unceasingly for the attainment of the objects contained in the above resolutions, and resolves to send a deputation to His Excellency Sir Alfred Milner to bring these resolutions officially to the notice of Her Majesty's Government."
These resolutions having been read, Mr. de Villiers proceeds to make two points. First, there will be no lasting peace in South Africa until the independence of the Republics is restored; unless this is done, race feeling will go on prevailing "for generations." And, second, it is the "devastation of property" and "the treatment of the women and children" by the British that has roused the colonial Dutch to assemble at the Congress. Mr. Pretorius, the member of the Legislative Council, then drives home both of these points by a short but emphatic speech, delivered in Dutch, in which he asserts that one of the consequences of the war will be a "never-ending irreconcilable racial hatred" between the British and Dutch inhabitants. Lord Milner then rises from his chair and replies to the deputation:
[Footnote 230: It is scarcely necessary to point out that this prophecy of continued racial hatred has been completely falsified by events. The writer went out to South Africa a second time in January, 1904, when two years had not passed since the surrender of the Boers. The one thing, above all others, that struck him, and every other visitor from England, was the profound peace that reigned from end to end of the land.]
[Sidenote: Lord Milner's reply.]
[Sidenote: War no longer justifiable.]
"I accede to your request to bring these resolutions to the notice of Her Majesty's Government. I think it is doubtful whether I ought to do so, but in view of the prevailing bitterness and excitement it is better to err, if one must err, on the side of conciliation and fairness. And, having regard especially to the fact that one of the resolutions is directed against myself, I wish to avoid any appearance of a desire to suppress its companions on account of it. But, having gone thus far on the road of concession, I take the liberty, in no unfriendly and polemical spirit, of asking you quite frankly what good you think can be done by resolutions of this character? I am not now referring to the resolution against myself. That is a matter of very minor importance. The pith of the whole business is in resolution number one, a resolution evidently framed with great care by the clever men who are engineering the present agitation in the Colony. Now, that resolution asks for two things—a termination of the war, and the restoration of the independence of the Republics. In desiring the termination of the war we are all agreed, but nothing can be less conducive to the attainment of that end than to encourage in those who are still carrying on a hopeless resistance the idea that there is any, even the remotest chance, of the policy of annexation being reversed. I am not now speaking for myself. This is not a question for me. I am simply directing your attention to the repeatedly declared policy of Her Majesty's Government, a policy just endorsed by an enormous majority of the nation, and not only by the ordinary supporters of the Government, but by the bulk of those ordinarily opposed to it. Moreover, that policy is approved by all the great self-governing colonies of the Empire, except this one, and in this one by something like half the white population, and practically the whole of the native. And this approving half of the white population, be it observed, embraces all those who, in the recent hour of danger, when this Colony itself was invaded and partially annexed, fought and suffered for the cause of Queen and Empire. I ask you, is it reasonable to suppose that Her Majesty's Government is going back upon a policy deliberately adopted, repeatedly declared, and having this overwhelming weight of popular support throughout the whole Empire behind it? And if it is not, I ask you further: What is more likely to lead to a termination of the war—a recognition of the irrevocable nature of this policy, or the reiteration of menacing protests against it? And there is another respect in which I fear this resolution is little calculated to promote that speedy restoration of peace which we have all at heart. I refer to the tone of aggressive exaggeration which characterises its allusions to the conduct of the war. No doubt the resolution is mild compared with some of the speeches by which it was supported, just as those speeches themselves were mild compared with much that we are now too well accustomed to hear and to read, in the way of misrepresentation and abuse of the British Government, British statesmen, British soldiers, the British people. But even the resolution, mild in comparison with such excesses, is greatly lacking in that sobriety and accuracy which it is so necessary for all of us to cultivate in these days of bitterly inflamed passions. It really is preposterous to talk, among other things, about 'the extermination of a white nationality,' or to give any sort of countenance to the now fully exploded calumny about the ill-treatment of women and children. The war, gentlemen, has its horrors—every war has. Those horrors increase as it becomes more irregular on the part of the enemy, thus necessitating severer measures on the part of the Imperial troops. But, having regard to the conditions, it is one of the most humane wars that has ever been waged in history. It has been humane, I contend, on both sides, which does not, of course, mean that on both sides there have not been isolated acts deserving of condemnation. Still, the general direction, the general spirit on both sides, has been humane. But it is another question whether the war on the side of the enemy is any longer justifiable. It is certainly not morally justifiable to carry on a resistance involving the loss of many lives and the destruction of an immense quantity of property, when the object of that resistance can no longer, by any possibility, be attained. No doubt, great allowance must be made for most of the men still under arms, though it is difficult to defend the conduct of their leaders in deceiving them. The bulk of the men still in the field are buoyed up with false hopes. They are incessantly fed with lies—lies as to their own chance of success, and, still worse, as to the intention of the British Government with regard to them should they surrender. And for that very reason it seems all the more regrettable that anything should be said or done here which could help still further to mislead them, still further to encourage a resistance which creates the very evils that these people are fighting to escape. It is because I am sincerely convinced that a resolution of this character, like the meeting at which it was passed, like the whole agitation of which that meeting is part, is calculated, if it has any effect at all, still further to mislead the men who are engaged in carrying on this hopeless struggle, that I feel bound, in sending it to Her Majesty's Government, to accompany it with this expression of my strong personal dissent."
[Footnote 231: Cd. 547.]
The comment of Ons Land upon Lord Milner's reply to the Worcester Congress deputation was an open defiance of the Imperial authorities and a scarcely veiled incitement to rebellion. Mr. Advocate Malan, the editor, who had been elected for the Malmesbury Division upon the retirement of Mr. Schreiner—now rejected by the Bond—wrote:
[Footnote 232: As stated in a Central News telegram, published in London on December 14th, 1900.]
"Sir Alfred Milner considers the request of the Afrikanders for peace and justice unreasonable. The agitation has now reached the end of the first period—that of pleading and petitioning. A deaf ear has been turned to the cry of the Afrikanders and their Church. But the battle for justice will continue from a different standpoint—by mental and material powers. The path will be hard, and sacrifices will be required, but the victory will be glorious!"
There were, of course, some voices that were raised, among both the republican and colonial Dutch, in favour of more moderate counsels. In the preceding month (November) Mr. Melius de Villiers, the late Chief Justice of the Free State, wrote to a Dutch Reformed minister in the Cape Colony to beg him to use all his influence against the efforts being made in the Cape Colony to encourage the Boers to continue the struggle. "However much I loved and valued the independence of the Free State," he says, "it is now absolutely certain that the struggle on the part of the burghers is a hopeless and useless one." And he then suggests that the Dutch Reformed ministers in the Cape Colony, instead of petitioning the Queen to grant the independence of the Republics, should intercede with ex-President Steyn and the Federal leaders and induce them to discontinue the fight. Women's Congresses and People's Congresses, held to denounce the barbarities perpetrated in the war, will avail nothing; but the Dutch Reformed Church could fulfil no higher mission than this genuine peace-making. "It may go against their grain to urge our people to yield," he adds, "but it seems to me a plain duty." But such voices were powerless to counteract the effect produced upon the Boers by the demonstrations of hatred against the British Government, manifested by men whose minds had been inflamed by the infamous slanders of the Imperial troops to which the "conciliation" movement had given currency.
[Footnote 233: Cd. 547.]
[Sidenote: Second invasion of the colony.]
On the morning of December 16th, five days after he had received the Worcester Congress deputation, Lord Milner heard that the burgher forces had again crossed the Orange River between Aliwal North and Bethulie. Before them lay hundreds of miles of country full of food and horses, and inhabited by people who were in sympathy with them. On the 20th martial law was proclaimed in twelve additional districts. On the 17th of the following month the whole of the Cape Colony, with the exception of Capetown, Simon's Town, Wynberg, Port Elizabeth, East London, and the native territories, was placed under the same military rule. In the words of a protest subsequently addressed by the Burgher Peace Committee to their Afrikander brethren, the "fatal result of the Worcester Congress had been that the commandos had again entered the Cape Colony." The friends of the Boers in England, duped by the Afrikander nationalists, had involved England and South Africa in a year and a half of costly, destructive, and unnecessary war.
THE DISARMAMENT OF THE DUTCH POPULATION
The new year (1901) opened with a full revelation of the magnitude of the task which lay before the Imperial troops. Lord Roberts had frankly recognised that the destruction of the Governments and organised armies of the Republics would be followed by the more difficult and lengthy task of disarming the entire Boer population within their borders.
"Recent events have convinced me," he wrote from Pretoria on October 10th, 1900, "that the permanent tranquillity of the Orange River Colony and Transvaal is dependent on the complete disarmament of the inhabitants; and, though the extent of the country to be visited, and the ease with which guns, rifles, and ammunition can be hidden, will render the task a difficult one, its accomplishment is only a matter of time and patience."
That this task proved altogether more lengthy and more arduous than Lord Roberts at this time expected, was due mainly, though not exclusively, to the same cause as that which had placed the British army in a position of such grave disadvantage at the outbreak of the war—the play of party politics in England. Lord Roberts had foreseen that the process of disarming the Boers would be slow and difficult; but he had not anticipated that the Imperial troops would be hindered in the accomplishment of this task by the political action of the friends of the Boers in England, or that the public utterances of prominent members of the Liberal Opposition would re-act with such dangerous effects upon the Afrikander nationalists that, after more than a year of successful military operations, the process of disarmament would have to be applied to the Cape Colony as well as to the territories of the late Republics.
Looking back to the year 1900, with the events of the intervening period before us, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the decision of the Boer leaders to continue the struggle was determined by political, and not by military considerations. More than one circumstance points to the fact that both the Boer generals and the civilian members of the Executives of the late Republics recognised that their position was practically hopeless from a military point of view. And while Louis Botha, the Commandant-General of the Transvaal, urged his fellow-burghers to lay down their arms after the battle of Dalmanutha, it was President Steyn, a politician, and not a fighting man, who manifested the stubborn determination that was directly responsible for the unnecessary devastation and suffering which the guerilla war entailed upon the Boer people. The remote, but still carefully cherished possibility of foreign intervention, the belief that the colonial Dutch would even yet rise en masse, and the reliance upon the traditional sympathy of the Liberal party with the Boer aspirations for independence, were all considerations that contributed to the decision. But of these three influences the last was incomparably the most important; since it not only affected the disposition of the republican leaders, but, what was more, stimulated the Afrikander nationalists to make the efforts which brought the Dutch in the Cape Colony to the condition of passionate resentment that drew the Boer commandos, in the last month of 1900 and the opening months of 1901, a second time across the Orange River.
[Footnote 234: See letter of Piet de Wet to his brother Christian, in Cd. 547, and correspondence between Steyn and Reitz (captured by British troops), in Cd. 903.]
[Sidenote: An injurious influence.]
We have seen the actual origin of this most injurious influence. The "conciliation" movement was initiated in the Cape Colony by the Afrikander nationalists in concert with President Krueger, in order that "the hands of the friends of the Afrikander party in England might be strengthened." They were strengthened. We have observed the formation of a Conciliation Committee in England, working in close connection with the parent organisation, founded by Mr. Hargrove, in the Cape Colony; and we have noticed the declarations of Mr. Morley, Lord Courtney, and Mr. Bryce, in favour of the restoration of the internal independence of the Boers—declarations all made in opposition to the expressed determination of the British Government to incorporate the Republics into the system of the British Empire. The official leader of the Liberal party was less consistent. In June, 1900, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman signified in general terms his recognition of the necessity of this measure. But he returned in October to vague expressions of sympathy with the Boers, which, after the general election had resulted in the return of the Unionist majority, took the form of a direct condemnation of the South African policy of the Government. In the course of the year 1901 he reiterated two charges with increasing vehemence. The conduct of the war was inhuman; and the Government, by refusing to offer any terms to the republican leaders inconsistent with the decision to incorporate the Republics into the Empire, were exacting the unnecessary humiliation of an unconditional surrender from a gallant foe. These injurious utterances at length provoked Lord Salisbury's indignant comment: "England is, I believe, the only country in which, during a great war, eminent men write and speak publicly as if they belonged to the enemy;" and elicited from Lord Rosebery, Sir Edward Grey, Mr. Asquith, Mr. Haldane, and Sir Henry Fowler, the assurance that the determination of the British people to "see the war through" had in no way weakened. But, in spite of these patriotic utterances on the part of the Liberal Imperialists, the fact remains that, throughout the whole period of the guerilla war, the Boer commandos were encouraged to resist the Imperial troops by the knowledge that prominent members of the Liberal party in England had declared themselves to be opposed to what they termed the "suppression" of the Boer people, and were condemning in unmeasured terms the British military authorities for employing the sole methods by which the guerilla leaders could be encountered on equal terms, and the disarmament of the Dutch population could be accomplished.
[Sidenote: Peace party among the Boers.]
There is another element in the attitude of the burgher population at this critical period, a knowledge of which is essential to a correct understanding of the methods and conditions of the guerilla war. The existence among the republican Dutch of a considerable body of opinion in favour of submission was a circumstance of which the Imperial authorities were aware, and one of which they desired, naturally enough, to take the fullest advantage. It was known also to the militant Boer leaders; and it is obvious that any estimate of the degree in which these leaders are to be held directly responsible for the loss and suffering entailed by the decision to continue the war, will depend largely upon the manner in which they dealt with those members of their own community who were prepared, after Lord Roberts's victories, to become peaceable citizens of the British Empire.
[Footnote 235: "This war no longer makes a pretence of being a war of defence; it is a war for gold-fields, for territory, and for the suppression of two brave and noble peoples. This wicked war has lost us the moral leadership of mankind."—Mr. E. Robertson, M.P., June 5th, 1901.]
The action of the Boer leaders in this respect is established by the indisputable testimony of the official documents which fell into the hands of the British authorities in the subsequent progress of the war. Every endeavour of the peace party to make itself heard was punished with rigorous, sometimes brutal, severity; fictitious reports, calculated to raise false hopes of foreign intervention, were circulated among the burghers in the field; and every effort was made to prevent a knowledge of the British Government's proposals for the future administration of the new colonies from reaching the rank and file of the burgher population. The details of this action on the part of the Boer leaders constitute collectively a body of evidence sufficient to have justified the employment of measures infinitely more severe than those which were in fact adopted by the British military authorities for the capture of the Boer commandos and the disarmament of the Dutch inhabitants of South Africa; and in the face of this evidence, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's reiterated charges against the Government, whether of "methods of barbarism" or of prolonging the war by the neglect to offer reasonable terms to the Boers, must be held as wanton in their origin as they were injurious in their results.