[Sidenote: Administrative changes.]
The despatch of October 18th, 1900, which, as we have seen, Lord Milner received as he was returning from his visit to the new colonies, contained certain new commissions, under the terms of which the "prospective administration" of the Transvaal and the Orange River Colony was placed in his hands in succession to Lord Roberts, while at the same time he remained Governor of the Cape Colony and High Commissioner for South Africa. This combination of offices was purely temporary, since Her Majesty's Government (Mr. Chamberlain wrote to Lord Milner) "were anxious to take advantage of his unique fitness for the great task of inaugurating the civil government of the two new colonies." It was proposed therefore, that, as soon as the necessary legal provision could be made for establishing constitutions for the two new colonies, Lord Milner should be appointed as their Governor, with a Lieutenant-Governor for the Orange River Colony, and should cease to be the Governor of the Cape Colony. This new arrangement, which, as Mr. Chamberlain pointed out, involved the severance of the High Commissionership from the Governorship of the Cape Colony to which it had been attached for so long a period, did not take effect, however, until the end of February, 1901, when Lord Milner finally left the Cape Colony for the Transvaal.
[Footnote 236: Cd. 547.]
Lord Roberts relinquished the command of the British forces in South Africa on November 29th, 1900. The Home Government at this time attached great importance to the issue of a proclamation setting out clearly the generous terms upon which the Boers would be received into the empire; and, in connection with this question, Lord Milner, during his recent visit to Pretoria, had discussed with Lord Kitchener the methods by which the influence of the surrendered Boers and the more moderate Afrikanders, who were in favour of submission, could be brought to bear upon the general mass of the fighting burghers. Lord Milner, however, upon his return to the Cape Colony, expressed the opinion that the issue of a proclamation in the then existing circumstances would be a mistake, since it would only be regarded as a sign of weakness. And in support of this opinion he states, in a telegram of December 11th, that the cabled summary of Mr. Chamberlain's
"recent speech in the House of Commons, containing virtually the principal points in the proposed proclamation, has been instantly seized upon by the Bond leaders [in the Cape Colony] and is represented by them as a sign that Her Majesty's Government is wavering in its policy, and that the reaction in British public opinion, which they have always relied on, is setting in."
[Footnote 237: Cd. 547.]
Both Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener confirmed this judgment at the time; and on January 28th, 1901—when de Wet was on the point of breaking through the British troops into the Cape Colony—the latter telegraphed to Lord Milner:
"When the Boers are inclined to peace, they will want, I think, to discuss various questions, and when that time comes a proclamation which would meet as far as possible the points raised would, no doubt, be very valuable.... But just now I do not think they have any idea of making peace whilst the Colony question is so prominent. I have let it be known that I would be glad to see an officer or meet Botha at any time if he wished to do so."
[Footnote 238: Cd. 547.]
Three days afterwards Lord Milner received a further telegram from Lord Kitchener on the same subject, which he also forwarded to the Colonial Office:
"Ex-President Pretorius has just returned from seeing L. Botha and Schalk Burger [the Commandant-General and the Acting President of the South African Republic]. They stated that they were fighting for their independence, and meant to continue to do so to the bitter end, and would not discuss any question of peace."
[Footnote 239: Ibid.]
[Sidenote: Boer leaders irreconcilable.]
In view of this irreconcilable attitude on the part of the Boer leaders, Mr. Chamberlain abandoned the proposal, and the proclamation was not issued until six months later, when the blockhouse system had been successfully initiated.
But, although Lord Milner had recognised the futility of the appeal by proclamation, he had readily approved of Lord Kitchener's endeavour to make the British proposals known to the placable but terrorised section of the fighting burghers, through the agency of those of their kinsmen and friends who had surrendered. After all advances to the Boer leaders in the field had totally failed, "it seemed to us," Lord Milner reported to Mr. Chamberlain,
[Footnote 240: January 12th, 1901. Cd. 547.]
"that those who had already surrendered would have means not open to us of communicating with the bulk of the Boers still under arms, persuading them of the hopelessness of their resistance, and removing the misapprehension of our intentions, which some of the commanders who were still holding out had sedulously fostered."
It was in these circumstances and with these objects in view that, after Lord Roberts's departure, the Burgher Peace Committee was formed at Pretoria; and it is to the address which Lord Kitchener then delivered (December 21st, 1900) to this Committee that we must look for the origin and purpose of the Burgher, or Concentration Camps.
[Sidenote: Origin of the Burgher camps.]
"It having been brought to Lord Kitchener's notice," says the published report, "that the principal difficulty that burghers, desirous of surrendering, experienced was that they were not allowed to remain in their own districts, and were afraid of the penalties attached to not having adhered strictly to the oath of neutrality, which they had, in most cases, been made to break by the coercive measures of Boers out on commando, he wished to give the burghers still in the field every opportunity of becoming acquainted with the treatment he proposed now to extend to them, their families, and their property.
"Instructions had been issued to form laagers for all surrendered burghers, their wives, families, and stock, on the railway in their own districts under military protection; and, except where it was proved that a burgher had voluntarily broken his oath and gone out on commando, no difference would be made between those who had not taken the oath. To protect deserted women and children they would also be brought into these laagers, where their husbands and sons, who desired to live peacefully, could freely join them.
"It was essential that the country should be thus cleared, because so long as the means of subsistence remained in and on the farms, so long small commandos were enabled to continue in the field. In return, Lord Kitchener expected every assistance from those to whom he gave protection. They must each and all help to the best of their ability by influencing in every way in their power those still in the field to surrender. These measures would be applied gradually, and extended if they proved successful. Burghers must understand that no responsibility could be accepted for stock or property, except for that which they brought in with them, and then only if they kept it within the limits of the protection he was prepared to afford."
[Footnote 241: Cd. 547.]
The report of Lord Kitchener's speech from which these paragraphs are taken was printed in Dutch and circulated by the Burgher Peace Committee. It is certainly significant that a measure which was subsequently held up to the execration of the civilised world by the official leader of the Liberal party and the friends of the Boers in England, should have been carefully explained by Lord Kitchener to an audience of Boers at Pretoria, and accepted by them as a means of enabling the peaceably disposed burghers to escape from the compulsion of their leaders. In this, as in many other matters, the English friends of the Boers were plus royalistes que le roi meme.
[Sidenote: Boer coercive measures.]
These, then, were the means employed by the British military authorities to avert a needless protraction of the war. We have now to observe the methods by which the Boer leaders prevented their efforts from producing the desired result. In view of the destruction of the organised resistance of the Republics, Lord Roberts had made known by proclamation that all burghers who surrendered their arms and took the oath of neutrality would be allowed to return to their homes, or, if at home, to remain there undisturbed. This implied an intention on the part of the British authorities to provide such protection as would enable the surrendered burghers to remain in peaceable possession of their property. General Botha, as we have already noted, was personally in favour of a general surrender after the battle of Dalmanutha; but, when once the majority of the Boer leaders had decided to continue to resist the establishment of British authority by force of arms, it became his business to keep every fighting burgher in the field. Here, again, the work of the Intelligence Department provides us with instructive evidence of the purposes and acts of the enemy. In the course of the subsequent military operations Sir Bindon Blood captured a number of official documents in the Boer Government laager at Roos Senekal. One of these, referring to the period in question, sufficiently indicates the nature of the "coercive measures" to which Lord Kitchener had alluded. Under date October 6th, 1900, General Botha gives instructions to the Boer commandant at Bethel to telegraph round to the Boer generals and officers certain military instructions, and he then adds:
"Do everything in your power to prevent the burghers from laying down their arms. I will be compelled, if they do not listen to this, to confiscate everything moveable or unmoveable, and also to burn their houses. Get into direct communication with the Standerton men, and destroy the railway line between Heidelberg and Standerton, and especially derail and hold up trains. In this manner we will obtain a large quantity of food."
[Footnote 242: Cd. 663. See also the text of the circular issued on December 2nd, 1900, by Louis Botha, as Commandant-General of the Boer forces, to all military officers, landdrosts, etc., giving specific instructions for the punishment of surrendered burghers who refused to join the commandos when called upon, and for the evasion of the neutrality oath.]
And, while the peaceably inclined burghers were prevented from surrendering by the fear of these penalties, the courage of the commandos was maintained by the spread of false information. Among these same papers found at Roos Senekal is a telegram despatched on November 2nd, 1900, to General Viljoen, containing a number of encouraging statements bearing upon the political and military situation, of which the three following may be taken as characteristic:
"October, 1900. A Congress of Delegates of the Powers was held at Parijs [Paris], whereby England asked for an extension of six months to carry on the war. This was refused by the powers on the proposal of Holland and Austria.
"France is ready to land troops in England on the 1st November.
"Cape Colonial troops to the number of 2,500 have been sent back by General Roberts, having quarrelled with the regulars. Their arms were taken away and burnt. This last is official news received by General Fourie."
[Footnote 243: Cd. 663.]
[Sidenote: "Not civilised warfare".]
It was in order to counteract the effects of this system of terrorism and deceit, that the endeavour was made to inform the mass of the Boers still in arms of the actual state of affairs, both in respect of the hopelessness of foreign intervention and the real intentions of the British Government, through the agency of the Burgher Peace Committee. The treatment accorded to these peace emissaries is justifiable, possibly, by a strict interpretation of the laws of war; but it fixes inevitably the responsibility for the needless sufferings of the Boer people in the guerilla war, upon Ex-President Steyn, Schalk Burger, Louis Botha, Christian de Wet, and the other Boer leaders. On January 10th, 1901, of three agents of the Peace Committee taken prisoners to De Wet's laager near Lindley, one—a British subject—was flogged and then shot, and two, who were burghers, were flogged. And on February 12th Meyer de Kock, the Secretary of the Committee, was shot.
[Footnote 244: Cd. 547.]
[Footnote 245: Cd. 663. It was at this time that the utterly unjustifiable and brutal murder of the coloured man, Esau, took place in the invasion of the Calvinia district of the Cape Colony. His sole offence was his known loyalty to the British Government. "He was flogged on January 15th, 1901, and kept in gaol till February 5th, when he was flogged through the streets and shot outside the village by a Boer named Strydom, who stated that he acted according to orders." Cd. 547.]
But the efforts of the Peace Committee were not altogether thrown away. The terrible deaths of these men, true martyrs of the Boer cause, evoked more than one notable protest against the insensate determination of Ex-President Steyn and De Wet.
"Dear Brother, ... From what I hear you are so angry with me," wrote General Piet de Wet to his brother Christian, "that you have decided to kill me should you find me. May God not allow it that you should have the opportunity to shed more innocent blood. Enough has been shed already.... I beseech you, let us think over the matter coolly for a moment, and see whether our cause is really so pure and righteous that we can rely on God's help."
[Footnote 246: Cd. 547.]
And Mr. H. A. Du Plessis, the predikant at Lindley in the Orange River Colony, addressed an "open letter" to the clergy of the Dutch Reformed Church in the Cape Colony.
"It is not civilised warfare any more on the part of the burghers. They have become desperate, and as fanatics do things in conflict with a Christian spirit and civilisation.... About a fortnight ago, G. Mueller, one of my deacons and brother of the late minister of Burghersdorp, was brutally ill-used. He had to strip, and received twenty-five lashes with a stirrup leather—he is not the only one—because he took letters from a member of the Peace Committee to certain heads of the burgher force, in which they were strongly advised to give in. At the same time Andries Wessels and J. Morgendael were taken prisoners. They left Kroonstad at their own request, and with the sanction of the military authorities, in order to have an interview with the leaders of the burgher force. Morgendael was mortally wounded by Commandant Froneman without a hearing, and at the instigation of General C. de Wet. He died afterwards.... In such a shameful, in fact, inhuman, manner were these men treated; and for what reason? Simply because they had tried to save their country and people....
"The burghers are kept totally in the dark by their leaders as to what the real state of affairs is. Because I wish to save them from certain ruin I make this appeal to you....
"If [the burghers] knew what the true state of affairs was, a large portion would long ago have come in and delivered up their arms....
"Therefore, I implore you, stand still for a few moments and think of the true interests of the Afrikander nation, and see if you will not alter your opinion, and quench the fire of war instead of feeding the flame....
[Footnote 247: Cd. 547.]
These letters, which were published in The Cape Times, formed part of an attempt made by the Burgher Peace Committee, "to induce some of the leading men in the colony, who are known to sympathise with the Boers, to tell the men still in the field that the hope of any assistance from here is a delusion." But, in thus reporting this new endeavour to Mr. Chamberlain, Lord Milner adds that he is not, himself, "very sanguine" of its success.
[Sidenote: Policy of the Bond.]
There was only too good ground for this opinion. The Afrikander nationalists of the Cape hated England no less than did the republican nationalists, though they feared her more. The policy which the Bond had adopted after the occupation of the Republics by the British forces was perfectly definite. Its object was to avert the final disaster of the war by securing the maintenance of the Republics as independent centres of Afrikander nationalism. In order to do this the Bond resolved to keep the Cape Colony in a state of smouldering rebellion, to encourage the continued resistance of the Boer commandos, and to render all the material assistance to the guerilla leaders and their forces that could be afforded without exposing the Cape Dutch to the penalties of treason. It may be doubted, however, whether the Bond leaders, in view of the resolute attitude of the loyalist population and their consistent and unfaltering support of Lord Milner, would have embarked upon this policy, unless they had calculated upon the co-operation of the Liberal Opposition in England. As it was, their expectations in this respect had been amply fulfilled, and the policy itself, as we have seen, had been admirably carried into effect.
The second invasion of the Cape Colony began, as we have noticed, with the incursion of the Boers after the Worcester Congress. On December 16th, 1900, Kruitzinger, with seven hundred, and Hertzog with twelve hundred men, crossed the Orange River; and by February 11th, 1901, De Wet, who had been "headed back" in December, had succeeded in eluding the British columns and entered the Colony. At this moment success seemed to be within measurable distance both to the Bond and to De Wet. The point of view of the astute Afrikander statesmen is different from that of the guerilla leader; but each party is equally hopeful of the ultimate victory of the nationalist cause. Of the attitude of the Bond in this month of February, 1901, Mr. Kipling writes from Capetown:
[Footnote 248: Cd. 522.]
"Some of the extremists of the Bond are for committing themselves now, fully, to the Dutch cause, De Wet and all; but some of the others are hunting for some sort of side-path that will give them a chance of keeping on the ground-level of the gallows, within hail of a seat in the next Parliament. If De Wet wins—he is assumed to be in command of several thousands, all lusting for real battle, and sure of a welcome among many more thousands alight with the same desire—the Bond may, of course, come out flat-footedly on his side. Just at present the apricots are not quite ripe enough. But the Bond has unshaken faith in the Opposition, whose every word and action are quoted here, and lead to more deaths on the veld. It is assumed that His Majesty's Opposition will save the Bond, and South Africa for the Bond, if only the commandos make the war expensive."
[Footnote 249: The italics are Mr. Kipling's. The Science of Rebellion: a Tract for the Times, by Rudyard Kipling.]
[Sidenote: De Wet in the colony.]
If this account of the attitude of the Bond stood alone, its value would be merely that of an ex parte statement by a competent observer on the spot. But it does not stand alone. The accident of the capture of the Boer official papers at Roos Senekal, to which we have referred before, has provided us with a record of the thoughts which were in De Wet's mind at the time when Mr. Kipling's words were written. In a report dated "On the Veld, February 14th, 1901," Commandant-General Botha is informed that "De Wet's last news is that the Cape Colony has risen to a man, and has already taken up arms. They refused to give up to the British Government. Many more are only waiting operations on part of De Wet to join him; and General De Wet concludes this report with the words: 'It is certain that the ways of the Lord are hidden from us, and that, after all, it seems that the day of a united South Africa is not far off.'"
The writer of this despatch is the "Acting Chief-Commandant" of the Orange Free State; and to his report of De Wet's success in the Cape Colony, he now adds an account of what is happening on the other side of the Orange River:
"The burghers in the Orange Free State are hopeful, and expecting a happy ending. The grudge against the Britisher has now taken deep root, and the women and girls are encouraging the burghers to stick up to the bitter end. So that our cause now rests in the union of the burghers, and, with God's help, we will accomplish our end.... The enemy's plan is to starve us out, but he will never do it, now we have an outlet from the Cape Colony, even if we have to use force."
[Footnote 250: Cd. 663.]
De Wet was chased out of the Colony by the British columns on February 28th, but smaller commandos under Kruitzinger, Fouche, Scheepers, and Malan remained behind. Apart from their mobility, and the persistent manner in which they clung to rugged and mountainous districts, the ability of these Boer raiders to keep the field against the Imperial troops must be attributed to the sympathy and material assistance which they received from the colonial Dutch. The actual number of recruits which they secured was small; but, in Lord Kitchener's words—
"the friendly feelings of a considerable portion of the rural population assured to them at all times not only an ample food supply, but also timely information of the movements of our pursuing columns—two points which told heavily in their favour."
[Footnote 251: Cd. 605.]
[Sidenote: Effect of Cape rebellion.]
In view of the enormous area of the sparsely populated and difficult country throughout which their movements were thus facilitated, it is not surprising that these roaming commandos were never completely suppressed. Of the 21,256 men who surrendered after Vereeniging, 3,635 were Boers and rebels, who had been, up to that time, at large in the Cape Colony. The importance of the contribution which the disloyal majority of the Cape Dutch were enabled, in this manner, to make to the power of resistance exhibited by the Boers in the guerilla war has scarcely been sufficiently appreciated. As it was, a large body of Imperial troops, which would otherwise have been available for completing the conquest of the new colonies, were kept employed, not merely in guarding the all-important railway lines, but from time to time in arduous, costly, and exhausting military operations in the Cape Colony.
[Footnote 252: Cd. 988.]
[Footnote 253: "Cape Colony is a great disappointment to me ... no general rising can be expected in that quarter.... [But] the little contingent there has been of great help to us: they have kept 50,000 troops occupied, with which otherwise we should have had to reckon."—Gen. Christian de Wet at the Vereeniging Conference on May 16th, 1902. App. A. The Three Years' War, by Christian Rudolf de Wet (Constable, 1902). But see forward also, p. 485, for part played by British loyalists.]
The value of this contribution was quite well understood by the Afrikander nationalists of the Cape. In Mr. Kipling's vigorous English, "north and south they were working for a common object—the manufacture of pro-Boers in England by doubling the income-tax." And it is in the extension of the area of the war by the establishment of the Boer commandos in the Cape Colony that we must find the one valid military consideration which underlay the failure of the peace negotiations between Lord Kitchener and General Louis Botha (February-April, 1901), and the final rejection of the British terms of surrender by the Boer leaders in June. The point is made perfectly plain in the official notice signed by Schalk Burger, as Acting President of the South African Republic, and Steyn, as President of the Orange Free State, which was issued to the burghers on June 20th, 1901. After reciting that the British terms had been referred to "State President Krueger and the deputation in Europe," and that President Krueger's reply had been considered by a conference of the Governments of both Republics, at which Chief-Commandant C. De Wet, Commandant-General L. Botha, and Assistant-Commandant J. H. De la Rey had presented a full report, the document continues:
"And considering the good progress in our cause in the colonies, where our brothers oppose the cruel injustice done to the Republics more and more in depriving them of their independence, considering further the invaluable personal and material sacrifices they [the Colonial Dutch] have made for our cause, which would all be worthless and vain with a peace whereby the independence of the Republics is given up ... [it is resolved] that no peace will be made ... by which our independence and national existence, or the interests of our colonial brothers, shall be the price paid, and that the war will be vigorously prosecuted."
[Footnote 254: Cd. 663.]
[Sidenote: Afrikander statesmanship.]
It is impossible to withhold a tribute of admiration from the Afrikander nationalist leaders. The qualities of statesmanship that enabled a Cavour or a Bismarck to make a nation were theirs. From the apparent hopelessness of the position created by Lord Roberts's swift and overwhelming victories, they had brought round their affairs to the point at which they now stood. The task which confronted the Imperial troops was no longer to disarm the inhabitants of the Republics, but to disarm and subdue practically the entire Dutch population of South Africa. And to the military difficulties inherent in the accomplishment of such a task in such a country, they had added the opposition of political forces operating both in England and South Africa with scarcely less embarrassing effects. Had it been merely an affair of the island people and the island statesmen, the Bond might still have won. The courage and endurance of the Imperial troops alone would not have saved South Africa. The army was the instrument of the people, and it was for the people to make use of this instrument, or to withdraw it, as they chose. But the over-sea British claimed a voice in the settlement; and the Bond had no friends among them. The "younger nations" and the "man" at Capetown saved South Africa for the Empire.
Before we proceed to consider the broad features of the military operations by which the disarmament of the Dutch was at length accomplished, a reference must be made to the account of the general situation in South Africa addressed by Lord Milner to Mr. Chamberlain from Capetown on February 6th, 1901. Among all the notable documents which he furnished to his official chief, none affords more convincing evidence of cool judgment, mastery of South African conditions, and sureness of statecraft than this. It is a letter, and not a despatch, and as such it contains some personal details which would not have found a place in more formal communications.
[Sidenote: Lord Milner's survey.]
Two reasons, Lord Milner writes, have prevented him from sending for a long time past any general review of South African affairs. "I am occupied," he says, "every day that passes from morning till night by business, all of which is urgent, and the amount and variety of which you are doubtless able to judge from the communications on a great variety of subjects which are constantly passing between us." And in addition to this, he has always hoped that "some definite point would be reached, at which it might be possible to sum up that chapter of our history which contained the war, and to forecast the work of administrative construction which must succeed it." Now, however, it is useless to wait longer for a "clear and clean-cut" situation. Although he has not "the slightest doubt of the ultimate result," he foresees that the work which still lies before the Imperial troops will be "slower, more difficult, more harassing, and more expensive than was at one time anticipated."
"It is no use denying that the last half-year has been one of retrogression. Seven months ago this Colony was perfectly quiet, at least as far as the Orange River. The southern half of the Orange River Colony was rapidly settling down, and even a considerable portion of the Transvaal, notably the south-western districts, seemed to have definitely accepted British authority, and to rejoice at the opportunity of a return to orderly government and the pursuits of peace. To-day the scene is completely altered."
The "increased losses to the country," due to the prolongation of the struggle and to the guerilla methods adopted by the Boer leaders, are obvious.
"The fact that the enemy are now broken up into a great number of small forces, raiding in every direction, and that our troops are similarly broken up in pursuit of them, makes the area of actual fighting, and consequently of destruction, much wider than it would be in the case of a conflict between equal numbers operating in large masses. Moreover, the fight is now mainly over supplies. The Boers live entirely on the country through which they pass, not only taking all the food they can lay hands upon on the farms—grain, forage, horses, cattle, etc., but looting the small village stores for clothes, boots, coffee, sugar, etc., of all of which they are in great need. Our forces, on their side, are compelled to denude the country of everything moveable, in order to frustrate these tactics of the enemy. No doubt a considerable amount of the stock taken by us is not wholly lost, but simply removed to the refugee camps, which are now being established at many points along the railway lines. But even under these circumstances the loss is great, through animals dying on the route, or failing to find sufficient grass to live upon when collected in large numbers at the camps. Indeed, the loss of crops and stock is a far more serious matter than the destruction of farm buildings, of which so much has been heard."
And to this loss incidental to the campaign there has been added recently "destruction of a wholly wanton and malicious character." This is the injury done to the mining plant in the outlying districts of the Rand by the Boer raiders, a destruction for which there is no possible excuse.
"It has no reason or justification in connection with military operations, but is pure vandalism, and outside the scope of civilised warfare.... Directly or indirectly, all South Africa, including the agricultural population, owes its prosperity to the mines, and, of course, especially to the mines of the Transvaal. To money made in mining it is indebted for such progress, even in agriculture, as it has recently made, and the same source will have to be relied upon for the recuperation of agriculture after the ravages of war.
"Fortunately the damage done to the mines has not been large, relatively to the vast total amount of the fixed capital sunk in them. The mining area is excessively difficult to guard against purely predatory attacks having no military purpose, because it is, so to speak, 'all length and no breadth'—one long thin line, stretching across the country from east to west for many miles. Still, garrisoned as Johannesburg now is, it is only possible successfully to attack a few points in it. Of the raids hitherto made, and they have been fairly numerous, only one has resulted in any serious damage. In that instance the injury done to the single mine attacked amounted to L200,000, and it is estimated that the mine is put out of working for two years. This mine is only one out of a hundred, and is not by any means one of the most important. These facts may afford some indication of the ruin which might have been inflicted, not only on the Transvaal and all South Africa, but on many European interests, if that general destruction of mine works which was contemplated just before our occupation of Johannesburg had been carried out. However serious in some respects may have been the military consequences of our rapid advance to Johannesburg, South Africa owes more than is commonly recognised to that brilliant dash forward, by which the vast mining apparatus, the foundation of all her wealth, was saved from the ruin threatening it."
[Sidenote: Material destruction.]
As the result of the last six or seven months of destructive warfare, "a longer period of recuperation will be required than was originally anticipated." At the same time, Lord Milner points out that, with Kimberley and the Rand, the "main engines of prosperity," virtually undamaged, the economic consequences of the war, "though grave, do not appear by any means appalling."
"The country population will need a good deal of help, first to preserve it from starvation, and then, probably, to supply it with a certain amount of capital to make a fresh start. And the great industry of the country will need some little time before it is able to render any assistance. But, in a young country with great recuperative powers, it will not take many years before the economic ravages of the war are effaced."
He then turns to consider the "moral effect" of the recrudescence of the war, which is, in his opinion, more serious than the mere material destruction of the last six months. In the middle of 1900 the feeling in the Orange River Colony and the western districts of the Transvaal was "undoubtedly pacific."
"The inhabitants were sick of the war. They were greatly astonished, after all that had been dinned into them, by the fair and generous treatment they received on our first occupation, and it would have taken very little to make them acquiesce readily in the new regime. At that time, too, the feeling in the Colony was better than I have ever known it."
[Sidenote: Recrudescence of the war.]
If it had been possible to screen those portions of the conquered territories which were fast settling down to peaceful pursuits from the incursions of the enemy still in the field, the worst results of the guerilla war might have been avoided. But the "vast extent of the country, and the necessity of concentrating our forces for the long advance, first to Pretoria and then to Komati Poort," made this impossible. The Boer leaders raided the country already occupied, but now left exposed; and, encouraged by the small successes thus easily obtained, the commandos reappeared first in the south-east of the Orange River Colony, then in the south-west of the Transvaal, and finally in every portion of the conquered territory.
Those among the burgher population who desired to submit to British rule now found themselves in a position of great difficulty.
"Instead of being made prisoners of war, they had been allowed to remain on their farms on taking the oath of neutrality, and many of them were really anxious to keep it. But they had not the strength of mind, nor, from want of education, a sufficient appreciation of the sacredness of the obligation which they had undertaken, to resist the pressure of their old companions in arms when these reappeared among them appealing to their patriotism and to their fears. In a few weeks or months the very men whom we had spared and treated with exceptional leniency were up in arms again, justifying their breach of faith in many cases by the extraordinary argument that we had not preserved them from the temptation to commit it.
"The general rising at the back of our advanced forces naturally led to the return of a number of our troops, and to a straggling conflict not yet concluded, in which the conduct of our own troops, naturally enough, was not characterised by the same leniency to the enemy which marked our original conquest. We did not, indeed, treat the men who had broken parole with the same severity with which I believe any other nation would have treated them. Entitled as we were by the universally recognised rules of war to shoot the men who, having once been prisoners in our hands and having been released on a distinct pledge to abstain from further part in the war, had once more taken up arms against us, we never in a single instance availed ourselves of that right. But as our columns swept through the revolted country, meeting on every hand with hostility, and even with treachery, on the part of the people whom we had spared, no doubt in some cases the innocent suffered with the guilty. Men who had actually kept faith with us were, in some instances, made prisoners of war, or saw their property destroyed, simply because it was impossible to distinguish between them and the greater number who had broken faith. This, no doubt, resulted in further accessions to the ranks of the enemy. And this tendency was augmented by the evacuation, necessary for military reasons, of a number of places, such as Fauresmith, Jagersfontein, and Smithfield, which we had held for months, and in which we had actually established a reasonably satisfactory civil administration. Latterly, something has been done to check the general demoralisation, and to afford places of refuge for those willing to submit, by establishing camps along the railway lines to which burghers may take themselves, their families, and their stock for protection. No doubt this is a very inadequate substitute for the effectual defence of whole districts. Consequently the camps are mostly tenanted by women and children whose male relatives are, in many cases, in the field against us. But, as far as it goes, it is a good measure, and there can be no doubt that, whenever we succeed in striking a decisive blow at any of the numerous commandos roaming about the country, a good many of their less willing members will find their way to one or other of these camps in order to avoid further fighting."
As the guerilla warfare thus swept back over the new colonies, the Dutch in the Cape Colony, who at one time, about the middle of the preceding year (1900), had seemed disposed to acquiesce in the union of all South Africa under the British flag, became once more restless and embittered.
[Sidenote: A carnival of mendacity.]
"Every act of harshness, however necessary, on the part of our troops, was exaggerated and made the most of, though what principally inflamed the minds of the people were alleged instances of needless cruelty which never occurred. Never in my life have I read of, much less experienced, such a carnival of mendacity as that which accompanied the pro-Boer agitation in this Colony at the end of last year. And these libels still continue to make themselves felt. It is true that excitement has subsided somewhat during the last two months, partly because some of the worst inventions about the conduct of the British troops have been exposed and utterly discredited, and partly because the general introduction of martial law has tended greatly to check seditious writing and speaking. But even now the general feeling in most of the country districts is very bad, and the commandos which invaded the Colony in December and have been roaming about ever since, while they have not gained many adherents among the colonial farmers, have nevertheless enjoyed the very substantial aid which the sympathy of the majority of the inhabitants was able to give them, in supporting themselves, obtaining fresh supplies of food and horses, and evading the forces sent in pursuit of them."
Of the general attitude of the Cape Dutch at this time Lord Milner writes with the lenient judgment of complete understanding:
"I am satisfied by experience that the majority of those Dutch inhabitants of the Colony who sympathise with the Republics, however little they may be able to resist giving active expression to that sympathy when the enemy actually appear amongst them, do not desire to see their own districts invaded or to find themselves personally placed in the awkward dilemma of choosing between high treason and an unfriendly attitude to the men of their own race from beyond the border. There are extremists who would like to see the whole of the Cape Colony overrun. But the bulk of the farmers, especially the substantial ones, are not of this mind. They submit readily enough even to stringent regulations having for their object the prevention of the spread of invasion. And not a few of them are, perhaps, secretly glad that the prohibition of seditious speaking and writing, of political meetings, and of the free movement of political firebrands through the country enables them to keep quiet, without actually themselves taking a strong line against the propaganda, and, to do them justice, they behave reasonably well under the pass and other regulations necessary for that purpose, as long as care is taken not to make these regulations too irksome to them in the conduct of their business, or in their daily lives.
"That there has been an invasion at all is no doubt due to the weakness of some of the Dutch colonists in tolerating, or supporting, the violent propaganda, which could not but lead the enemy to believe that they had only to come into the Colony in order to meet with general active support. But this was a miscalculation on the part of the enemy, though a very pardonable one. They knew the vehemence of the agitation in their favour as shown by the speeches in Parliament, the series of public meetings culminating in the Worcester Congress, the writings of the Dutch Press, the very general wearing of the republican colours, the singing of the Volkslied, and so forth, and they regarded these demonstrations as meaning more than they actually did. Three things were forgotten. Firstly, that a great proportion of the Afrikanders in the Colony who really meant business had slipped away and joined the republican ranks long ago. Secondly, that the abortive rebellion of a year ago had left the people of the border districts disinclined to repeat the experiment of a revolt. Thirdly, that owing to the precautionary measures of the Government the amount of arms and ammunition in the hands of the country population throughout the greater part of the Colony is not now anything like as large as it usually is, and far smaller than it was a year ago."
[Sidenote: British population in arms.]
In these circumstances the object to be aimed at is to screen off as much of the country as possible from raids. But the Cape Colony is considerably larger in area than France and the United Kingdom put together; it has "an immense length of frontier that can be crossed anywhere," and "exceedingly primitive means of communication." The exclusion of mobile guerilla bands from across the frontier is, therefore, "something of an impossibility." There is one method, and one only, by which "the game of the invaders can be frustrated." It is to provide each district with the means of defending itself. And so a local defence force has been formed in all districts, with the exception of those—happily the least important in the Colony—in which the population is extremely small and the loyalists are very few.
"In the other districts, the response on the part of the British population to the general call to arms recently made by the Ministry has been better than the most sanguine expected. It was always admitted, by their friends and foes alike, that the bulk of the Afrikander population would never take up arms on the side of the British Government in this quarrel, even for local defence. The appeal was, therefore, virtually directed to the British population, mostly townspeople, and to a small, but no doubt very strong and courageous, minority of the Afrikanders who have always been loyalists. These classes had been already immensely drawn on by the Cape police, the regular volunteer corps, and the numerous irregular mounted corps which had been called into existence because of the war. There must have been twelve thousand Cape Colonists under arms before the recent appeal, and, as things are now going, we shall get as many more under that appeal—a truly remarkable achievement under a purely voluntary system. The fact that, if the war continues for a few months longer, so large a number of the South African British will be under arms (for, it must be remembered, in addition to the Cape colonists we have about one thousand Rhodesians, and, I should say, at least ten thousand Uitlanders) is one that cannot be left out of account in considering either the present imbroglio or the settlement after peace is restored.
"It is, indeed, calculated to exercise a most important and, I believe, beneficial influence upon the South African politics of the future. Among the principal causes of the trouble of the past and present was the contempt felt by the Afrikander countryman, used to riding and shooting, and generally in possession of a good rifle and plenty of cartridges, for other white men less habituated to arms than he was himself. That feeling can hardly survive the experience of the past twelve months, and especially of the last six weeks. The splendid fighting of the despised Johannesburgers of the Imperial Light Horse, and of the other South African Colonial Corps, has become a matter of history, and the present levee en masse of the British people, including the townsmen, of this Colony, is proof positive that when the necessity is really felt they are equal to the best in courage and public spirit. In this respect the events of the past few months, unfortunate as they have been in many ways, have undoubtedly their brighter side. The mutual respect of the two principal white races is the first condition of a healthy political life in the South Africa of the future. It is possible that if the extreme strain of the most recent developments of the war had never been felt throughout Cape Colony, the British inhabitants would never have had the opportunity of showing that they were inferior to none in their willingness to bear all the burdens of citizenship, including that of personal service."
[Sidenote: Remember the loyalists.]
And Lord Milner urges that in the future England should not forget that there are loyalists in South Africa as well as Boers; and that the loyalists are Dutch as well as British.
"The important part now played, even from the purely military point of view, by the South African loyalists ought, as it seems to me, to have a good effect not only in South Africa but in England. The inherent vice, if I may say so, of almost all public discussion of our South African difficulties is the tendency to concentrate attention too exclusively on the Boers. Say what we will, the controversy always seems to relapse into the old ruts—it is the British Government on the one hand and the Boers on the other. The question how a particular policy will affect not merely our enemies, but our now equally numerous friends, seems seldom to be adequately considered. And yet it would seem that justice and policy alike should lead us to be as eager to consider the feelings and interests, and to retain the loyalty, of those who are fighting on our side, as to disarm the present enmity and win the future confidence of those who are fighting against us. And this principle would seem all the easier to adhere to because there is really nothing which the great body of the South African loyalists desire which it is not for the honour and advantage of the mother country to insist upon.
"Of vindictiveness, or desire to oppress the Afrikanders, there is, except in hasty utterances inevitable in the heat of the conflict, which have no permanent significance, or in tirades which are wholly devoid of influence, no sign whatever. The attitude of almost all leading and representative men, and the general trend of public feeling among the loyalists, even in the intensity of the struggle, is dead against anything like racial exclusiveness or domination. If this were not so it would be impossible for a section of pure-bred Afrikanders, small no doubt in numbers but weighty in character and position, to take the strong line which they do in opposition to the views of the majority of their own people, based as these are, and as they know them to be, upon a misconception of our policy and intentions. These men are among the most devoted adherents to the Imperial cause, and would regard with more disfavour and alarm than any one the failure of the British nation to carry out its avowed policy in the most complete manner. They are absolutely convinced that the unquestioned establishment of British supremacy, and the creation of one political system from Capetown to the Zambesi, is, after all that has happened, the only salvation for men of their own race, as well as for others."
[Sidenote: "One Country, One Flag."]
And, in conclusion, he writes of the "predominant, indeed the almost unanimous, feeling of those South Africans who sympathise with the Imperial Government," that—
"they are sick to death of the war, which has brought ruin to many of them, and imposed considerable sacrifices on almost all. But they would rather see the war continue for an indefinite time than run the risk of any compromise which would leave even the remotest chance of the recurrence of so terrible a scourge in the future. They are prepared to fight and suffer on in order to make South Africa, indisputably and for ever, one country under one flag, with one system of government, and that system the British, which they believe to ensure the highest possible degree of justice and freedom to men of all races."
In this luminous review of what Lord Milner terms "if by no means the most critical, possibly the most puzzling" state of affairs since the outbreak of the war, it will be observed that he puts the time required by South Africa to recover from the economic ravages of the war at "not many years." In point of fact, two and a half years after the surrender of Vereeniging nothing remained but the scattered graveyards upon the veld, the empty tins still tinkling upon the wire fences by the railways, and an occasional blockhouse, to remind the traveller of the devastating struggle from which the country had so recently emerged. This estimate of the period of recuperation affords a measure of the magnitude of Lord Milner's achievement in the three concluding years of his administration. For the rest, we look in vain for any trace of bitterness, or even of partisanship, in his frank and penetrating analysis. It is the survey of a man who is completely master of the situation; who is absolutely convinced of the justice of the British cause; who has no illusions and no fears.
[Sidenote: Feeding the enemy.]
With the circumstances in which the burghers were induced by their leaders to continue, or renew, their resistance to the Imperial troops before us, both the long duration of the guerilla war, and the methods by which it was finally brought to a close, become easily intelligible. At the same time it must not be forgotten that, from a purely military point of view, the relapse of the conquered territories into war was due to the insufficiency of British troops. By the end of April, 1900, as we have noticed before, all the reserves of the regular army had been exhausted; and, in addition to this, at the end of twelve months' service a considerable proportion of the Home and over-sea auxiliaries left South Africa to return to civil life. Had there been a sufficient number of trained soldiers to occupy effectively the Boer Republics, the war would not have swept back through them and over their borders into the Colony. Even so, the actual number of British troops in South Africa under Lord Roberts's command would have sufficed to subjugate the Boers, had the British military authorities employed the severe methods of warfare to which any other belligerent would have had recourse under the like conditions—methods of merciful severity which were employed, in fact, by the Union forces in the civil war in America. But, by the irony of fate, the humane methods of the British, in the absence of a practically unlimited supply of trained troops, made the revival of hostilities possible on the part of the Boers, and thereby created the necessity for the employment of those more rigorous, but, by comparison, still humane and generous methods, in respect of which the charge of inhumanity was brought against Great Britain by the friends of the Boers in England and on the continent of Europe. No one will maintain that it is a part of the duty of a belligerent to support the non-combatant population of the enemy. Yet this duty was voluntarily assumed throughout the war by the British military authorities, who, from the occupation of Bloemfontein onwards, fed the non-combatant Boer population as well as they fed their own troops.
[Footnote 255: E.g. those employed by General Sherman in his march to the Sea, through Georgia, in the latter part of 1864.]
[Sidenote: Lord Kitchener's task.]
An incident that happened after the occupation of Pretoria exhibits the remarkable generosity of the British attitude. At a time when, owing to the Boer attacks upon the railway, the utmost difficulty was experienced in getting supplies from the thousand-miles'-distant base at the coast, Lord Roberts was compelled to send away a part of the civilian population to General Botha, and they were removed by the Boer Commandant-General to Barberton. That is to say, while the British, on the one hand, were giving part of the supplies on which the existence of their troops depended, to the non-combatant population of the enemy, the enemy, on the other hand, was doing his utmost to destroy the single line of railway which alone stood between the British Army and starvation. When, therefore, Lord Kitchener succeeded to the command of the British forces in South Africa (November 29th, 1900), he found the task of disarmament complicated by two factors. There was the desire of the Home Government that the war should be conducted upon the humane lines hitherto adopted, and there was also the fact that the Imperial troops were not numerous enough to occupy effectively the whole territory of the Republics, or, in other words, to do the one thing of all others necessary to make this humane conduct of the war consistent with military success. It was impossible, with the troops at his disposal, for Lord Kitchener to hold the enormous territory of the conquered Republics. It was impossible, perhaps, to support a larger force in a country so poorly provided with food supplies and means of communication. An alternative plan had to be found. This plan was to remove the horses, cattle, and food supplies from the areas which he was unable to occupy, and to transport the non-combatant inhabitants to places where they could be both fed and protected. And, when this had been done—or, more correctly, while it was in process of being done—he had to capture the small, mobile bodies of burghers operating over the whole of the unprotected area of the late Republics and the Cape Colony, and to collect gradually the fighting Boers, captured or surrendered, into the colonial or over-sea prisoners' camps.
Certain districts, of which those surrounding the towns of Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Pretoria, and Johannesburg were the more important, had from the first been effectively occupied and securely held. All the troops at Lord Kitchener's disposal, that were not absorbed in the work of garrisoning these districts and maintaining the lines of communication, were organised into mobile columns, which were distributed among General Officers respectively attached to a particular area. In a despatch of July 8th, 1901, Lord Kitchener was able to report that, as the result of the recent work of these mobile columns, the Boers, although "still able, in case of emergency, to concentrate a considerable number of men," were, in his opinion, "unable to undertake any large scheme of operations." Apart from the heavy drain from prisoners captured and deaths in the field, the loss of their ox-waggons had seriously affected their mobility and supply arrangements.
"Divided up into small parties of three to four hundred men," he writes, "they are scattered all over the country without plans and without hope, and on the approach of our troops they disperse, to reassemble in the same neighbourhood when our men pass on. In this way they continue an obstinate resistance without retaining anything, or defending the smallest portion of this vast country."
He estimates that there are not more than 13,500 Boers in the field in the Transvaal, the Orange River Colony, and the Cape Colony. But he adds that—
[Footnote 256: This estimate was very much too small: at the Vereeniging surrender, when many thousands more of Boers had been captured or killed 21,256 burghers and rebels laid down their arms. Cd. 988.]
"with long lines of railway to hold, every yard of which has to be defended, both to secure our own civil and military supplies, and, what is more important, to prevent the enemy from obtaining necessaries from the capture of our trains, the employment of large numbers of troops continues to be a necessity.... The Boer party who declared war have quitted the field, and are now urging those whom they deserted to continue a useless struggle by giving lying assurances to the ignorant burghers of outside assistance, and by raising absurdly deceitful hopes that Great Britain has not sufficient endurance to see the matter through."
[Footnote 257: Cd. 695.]
But it had become evident that some more systematic effort was required for the capture of the commandos, unless the slow task of wearing down the Boer resistance was to be almost indefinitely protracted; and this same month of July, 1901, witnessed the extension of the blockhouse lines, which proved the turning-point in the guerilla war. The origin of Lord Kitchener's system of blockhouse defence is described by him in his despatch of August 8th, 1901.
[Sidenote: The blockhouse system.]
"Experience had shown," he writes, "that the line of defensible posts, extending across the Orange River Colony, from Jacobsdal to Ladybrand, constituted a considerable obstacle to the free movement of the enemies' roving bands, and that the gradual completion of chains of blockhouses placed at intervals of a mile, sometimes less, along the Transvaal and Orange River Colony railways, had obtained for our traffic a comparative security which it had not previously enjoyed."
[Footnote 258: Cd. 820.]
In July, therefore, Lord Kitchener made arrangements for the construction of three additional lines of blockhouses. The first ran from Aliwal North westward, following the course of the Orange River, to Bethulie, and was continued thence alongside the railway through Stormberg, Rosmead, Naauwpoort, and De Aar, northward to Kimberley. The second commenced at Frederickstad and ran northward by the source of the Mooi River to Breed's Nek in the Magaliesberg, from which point it was connected with the British garrison at Commando Nek, and thus screened the western side of the Pretoria and Johannesburg area. The third, running from Eerste Fabriken in the north, by Springs and Heidelberg, southward to the Vaal River, protected the same district from attack upon the east. These new blockhouse lines, Lord Kitchener wrote, promised to be of much assistance in the future. Not only did they protect the British communications, and render inter-communication between the different portions of the Boer forces difficult, but, in the absence of frontiers, natural or artificial, they served as barriers against which the British mobile columns were able to drive bands of the enemy and force them to surrender. Indeed, the blockhouse lines proved the chief instrument of success; for with the gradual extension of the system, the area of active hostilities was confined in an increasing degree to the vast half-deserted regions through which the commandos roamed, and the British columns swept at intervals in pursuit of them.
A month later, August 8th, Lord Kitchener reported a further step in advance. He had formed "some specially mobile columns for independent and rapid action in different parts of the country, generally at some distance from the operations of other troops." The commanders of these new mobile columns had a free hand in respect of their movements, since they were guided by the special intelligence, which they themselves collected, and not solely by information from headquarters. The effect produced by the development of the blockhouse system, combined with the greater freedom of initiative allowed to the new mobile columns, became apparent in the increasing number of Boers captured or voluntarily surrendering themselves in the month of August, when altogether more than two thousand of the enemy were accounted for. On the 7th of this month the delayed proclamation was issued, and a date—September 15th—was fixed as the limit within which the guerilla leaders might, by voluntarily surrendering, avoid certain penalties which were duly set out. In order to counteract the effect of this action on the part of the British Government, General Botha stimulated his followers to increased military enterprise.
[Footnote 259: There were 186 killed, 75 wounded, 1,384 prisoners, 529 voluntary surrenders; while 930 rifles, 90,958 rounds of ammunition, 1,332 waggons and carts, 13,570 horses, and 65,879 cattle were captured. Cd. 820.]
[Footnote 260: See p. 420.]
"But," says Lord Kitchener, "though there has been no general surrender, the device to which the Commandant-General resorted for turning the thoughts of his burghers in another direction has probably cost him and his cause [a heavier loss] than a simple pursuance of the usual evasive tactics would have even entailed."
[Sidenote: Large captures of Boers.]
The precise extent of this loss is shown in the returns for September, which record captures and surrenders almost as numerous as those of the preceding month.
"It cannot be expected," Lord Kitchener adds, "even under the most favourable conditions, that in the presence of the ever-diminishing numbers opposing us in the field, these figures can be maintained, but I feel confident that so long as any resistance is continued, no exertion will be spared either by officers or men of this force to carry out the task they still have before them."
[Footnote 261: Cd. 820. The September returns were: 170 Boers killed in action, 114 wounded prisoners, 1,385 unwounded prisoners, and 1,393 surrenders.]
[Sidenote: The railway lines secured.]
In another month a position had been reached in which it was possible for the work of administrative reconstruction—interrupted a year ago by the development of the guerilla warfare—to be resumed. At this date (November, 1901), the resistance of the Dutch population had been weakened by the loss of 53,000 fighting Boers, of whom 42,000 were in British custody, while the rest had been killed, wounded, or otherwise put out of action. In the Transvaal 14,700 square miles, and in the Orange River Colony 17,000 square miles of territory had been enclosed by blockhouse lines. A square formed roughly by lines running respectively from Klerksdorp to Zeerust on the west, from Zeerust to Middelburg on the north, from Middelburg to Standerton on the east, and from Standerton to Klerksdorp on the south, enclosing Pretoria and the Rand, was the protected area of the Transvaal. The whole of the Orange River Colony south of the blockhouse line, Kimberley-Winberg-Bloemfontein-Ladybrand, was also a protected area; and the Cape Colony, south of the main railway lines, was similarly screened off. But an application of what may be termed "the railway-cutting test" yields, perhaps, the most eloquent testimony both to the magnitude of the original task undertaken by the Imperial troops, and to the degree of success which had been obtained. In October, 1900, the railway lines, upon which the British troops depended for supplies of food and ammunition, were cut thirty-two times, or more than once a day. The number of times in which they were cut in the succeeding November was thirty; in December twenty-one; in January, 1901, sixteen; in February, as the result of De Wet's invasion of the Cape Colony, they were cut thirty times; in March eighteen; in April eighteen; in May twelve; in June eight; in July four; in August four; in September twice; and in October not at all. Still more significant of the approach of peace was the fact that now, for the first time, the British population was allowed to return to Johannesburg in any considerable numbers.
[Footnote 262: In August 648 refugees returned; in November the number had risen to 2,623.]
It remains to consider two questions which cannot be omitted from any account; however brief, of the manner in which the disarmament of the Dutch in South Africa was effected. The first of these is the charge of inhumanity brought against the Imperial military authorities in respect of the deportation of the Boer non-combatants to the Burgher Camps; and the second is the actual effect produced upon the burghers in the field by the public denunciations of the war by members of the Liberal Opposition in England.
[Sidenote: The Burgher camps.]
In charging the British Government and Lord Kitchener with inhumanity in the conduct of the war, Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman and other friends of the Boer cause relied in the main upon the circumstance that a certain proportion of the Boer population was removed compulsorily from districts which the British troops were unable to occupy effectively, and upon the further fact that the Burgher Camps exhibited an unusually high rate of mortality. The necessity for the removal of this non-combatant population will scarcely be disputed in view of the methods adopted by the Boer leaders to compel the burghers to continue their resistance to the Imperial troops, and the fact that nearly every house in the Transvaal and Orange River Colony, inhabited by the Dutch, served as an intelligence office, a recruiting depot, and a base of supplies for the roving commandos. Nor will it be denied that the responsibility for the unnecessary suffering incurred by the Boer people in the guerilla war rests upon those of the Boer leaders who formed and enforced the decision to continue the struggle, and not upon the British Government. The alleged "inhumanity," therefore, of the Imperial military authorities consists in the circumstance that, instead of leaving these helpless non-combatants to be supported by the Boer leaders, they removed them to places of security, where they were fed, housed, and generally maintained, in as little discomfort as circumstances permitted. If the lesser suffering of the Burgher Camps was the only alternative to greater suffering, and possibly starvation, on the veld, the Boers had only their own leaders to thank for the position in which they found themselves. The death-rate of the Burgher Camps was exceptionally high as compared with that of any ordinary European community. But the population of the camps was no less exceptional. It consisted of women and children, with a small proportion of adult males; and of all these the majority had come to the camps as refugees, insufficiently clothed, weakened by exposure and often by starvation. Obviously the death-rate of such a refugee community would be much higher, under the most favourable conditions, than that of an ordinary European town; and, in order to find a valid point of comparison, we must seek statistics provided by similar collections of refugees, brought together under the like exceptional circumstances. We are unable to find any such parallel case, for the sufficient reason that history records no other example of a nation at war which, at the risk of impairing the efficiency of its own forces in the field, has endeavoured, not merely to feed and clothe, but to house, nurse, and even educate the non-combatant population of its enemy.
[Sidenote: Reduction of the death-rate.]
What we do know, however, is that, of the total deaths in these camps of refuge, the great majority were those of infants and children. This is a circumstance which in itself goes far to make the excess of the camp death-rate apparent rather than real; since, in the first place, the Boer mothers, owing to their insanitary habits and ignorance, are not accustomed to bring more than one out of every two children to maturity; and in the second, the rate of infant mortality is abnormally high, as compared with that of a given community as a whole, even in the most highly developed countries. The highest monthly death-rate was that of October, 1901, when, out of a population of 112,109 in all camps, there were 3,205 deaths, or 344 per thousand per annum. But of these deaths, 500 only (in round numbers) were those of adults, and 2,700 were those of children. That is to say, in this worst month we have in the refugee camps an adult death-rate of (roughly) 50 per thousand, as compared with a European death-rate varying from 16.7 in Norway to 33.2 in Hungary, and a children's death-rate of 300 per thousand, as compared with the 208 per thousand of the contemporary rate of infant mortality in thirty-three great towns of the United Kingdom, or in Birkenhead alone of 362 per thousand. And from this time forward the death-rate of the refugee camps was rapidly reduced. The reason for this reduction is significant. By the development of the blockhouse lines the British military authorities had been enabled to protect their supplies from the attacks of the guerilla leaders. In other words, Lord Kitchener was now able to defend the Boer non-combatants against the efforts made by their own leaders to deprive them of food and other necessaries of life. And ultimately the mortality in the Burgher Camps was reduced to a point "much below the normal rates under ordinary local circumstances."
[Footnote 263: For the grotesque, repulsive, and even fatal remedies employed by the Boer women in the treatment of their children in sickness, the reader is referred to the medical reports on the condition of the refugee camps published in the Blue-book.]
[Footnote 264: The figures are those given by Miss Hobhouse, as based upon the official returns (The Brunt of the War, pp. 329-31).]
[Footnote 265: I.e. annual per 1,000 on a basis of 25 years (1874-98).]
[Footnote 266: Cd. 1,163, p. 159. See also ibid., p. 151, and p. 178. Lord Kitchener's reply to the official Boer complaint against the system of the Burgher Camps (made by Acting President Schalk Burger), is as follows:
"Numerous complaints were made to me in the early part of this year (1901), by surrendered burghers, who stated that after they laid down their arms their families were ill-treated, and their stock and property confiscated by order of the Commandant-Generals of the Transvaal and Orange Free State. These acts appear to have been taken in consequence of the circular dated Roos Senekal, 6th November, 1900, in which the Commandant-General says: 'Do everything in your power to prevent the burghers laying down their arms. I will be compelled, if they do not listen to this, to confiscate everything movable or immovable, and also to burn their houses.'
"I took occasion, at my interview with Commandant-General Louis Botha (February 28th, 1901), to bring this matter before him, and I told him that if he continued such acts I should be forced to bring in all women and children, and as much property as possible, to protect them from the acts of his burghers. I further inquired if he would agree to spare the farms and families of neutral or surrendered burghers, in which case I expressed my willingness to leave undisturbed the farms and families of burghers who were on commando, provided they did not actively assist their relatives. The Commandant-General emphatically refused even to consider any such arrangement. He said: 'I am entitled by law to force every man to join, and if they do not do so to confiscate their property, and leave their families on the veld.' I asked him what course I could pursue to protect surrendered burghers and their families, and he then said, 'The only thing you can do, is to send them out of the country, as if I catch them they must suffer.' After this there was nothing more to be said, and as military operations do not permit of the protection of individuals, I had practically no choice but to continue my system of bringing inhabitants of certain areas into the protection of our lines. My decision was conveyed to the Commandant-General in my official letter, dated Pretoria, 16th April, 1901, from which the following is an extract:
"'As I informed your Honour at Middelburg, owing to the irregular manner in which you have conducted and continue to conduct hostilities, by forcing unwilling and peaceful inhabitants to join your Commandos, a proceeding totally unauthorised by the recognised customs of war, I have no other course open to me, and am forced to take the very unpleasant and repugnant steps of bringing in the women and children.
"'I have the greatest sympathy for the sufferings of these poor people, which I have done my best to alleviate, and it is a matter of surprise to me and to the whole civilised world, that your Honour considers yourself justified in still causing so much suffering to the people of the Transvaal, by carrying on a hopeless and useless struggle.'
"From the foregoing, it will, I believe, be perfectly clear that the responsibility for the action complained of by Mr. Burger (the so-styled Acting State President of the Transvaal), rests rather with the Commandants-General of the Transvaal and Orange Free State, than with the Commander-in-Chief of the forces in South Africa....
"It is not the case that every area has been cleared of the families of burghers, although this might be inferred from the despatch under discussion. On the contrary, very large numbers of women and children are still out, either in Boer Camps or on their farms, and my Column Commanders have orders to leave them alone, unless it is clear that they must starve if they are left out upon the veld....
"Finally, I indignantly and entirely deny the accusations of rough and cruel treatment of women and children who were being brought in from their farms to the camp. Hardships may have been sometimes inseparable from the process, but the Boer women in our hands themselves bear the most eloquent testimony to the kindness and consideration shown to them by our soldiers on all such occasions."
With this statement it is interesting to compare Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's words at Bath, November 20th, 1901:
"Is our hypocrisy so great that we actually flatter ourselves upon our great humanity, because we have saved from starvation those whose danger of starvation we have caused?... The hypocrisy of these excuses is almost more loathsome than the cruelty itself.... We have set ourselves to punish this country, to reduce it apparently to ruin, because it has ventured to make war against us."
Truly an extraordinary attitude for a future Prime Minister of England!]
The charge of prolonging the war by public declarations of sympathy with the enemy was definitely formulated against certain members of the Liberal Opposition and the Irish Nationalist party by Lord St. Aldwyn (Sir Michael Hicks Beach), at Oldham on October 10th, 1901.
[Footnote 267: What was even worse than such declarations of sympathy with the Boers was the manifestation of hostility against the loyalist population of South Africa. E.g. Sir William Harcourt (in a letter in The Times of December 17th, 1900), wrote: "I sometimes think that those bellicose gentlemen—especially those who do not fight—must occasionally cast longing, lingering looks towards the times before they were subsidised (sic) by the authors of the Raid to bring about the position in which they now find themselves."]
[Sidenote: Why the war was prolonged.]
"The real cause of the prolongation of this war has been something which, on my word, I believe could never have been seen in any other country in the world. It has been the speeches in Parliament of British members of the House of Commons, doing everything they could against their country and in favour of her enemies. It has been articles in certain journals taking absolutely the same lines—I am not talking of mere attacks on his Majesty's Government, or even calumnies of individual ministers, that is part of the ordinary machinery of political warfare, and one of the advantages of an absolutely free Press. No, what I am talking of is the prominence given to the opinions and sentiments of men who were called Pro-Boers, as if they represented the feelings of a large section of their fellow-countrymen. The invention of lies, like the alleged quarrel between Lord Kitchener and the War Office, was intended to damage this country in the conduct of the war, as was also the wicked charges made against the humanity of our generals and our soldiers in the Concentration Camps and in the field, the attempts, such as I saw only the other day in one of these papers, to prove that in those gallant contests at Fort Itala and on the borders of Natal our soldiers had not repulsed their enemies, but were themselves the defeated party. We here do not attach any importance to those things. We rate them at their true value because we know something about their authors—but what do you think is thought of them when they go out to South Africa? What do the Boers and their leaders think when they read the newspapers written in England which are full of these things? The Boers have many faults, but they are a simple and patriotic people. They never can imagine that English newspapers would print these things, that English members of Parliament would speak them, taking always the side of their country's enemies, unless these things were true. They are deceived. They greedily swallow all this as representing the opinion of a great section of the public in this country, and those who have said these things and those who have circulated them are the parties who are guilty before God of prolonging this war. There are the Irish Nationalists. Let me read to you words which I heard with the greatest pain in the last session of Parliament from the leader of the Irish Nationalists, a man of consummate eloquence and perfect self-control. What did Mr. John Redmond say? He prayed God that the resistance of the Boers might be strengthened, and that South Africa might take vengeance for its wrongs by separating itself from the Empire which had deluged it with blood, and become a free and independent nation. We in England pass over words of that sort, though I believe they would not have been uttered with impunity by a member of the Legislative Assembly of any other country in the world."
[Footnote 268: September 26th, 1901. See Cd. 820 for report of this action.]
[Sidenote: Campbell-Bannerman's reply.]
Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman's reply to the charge brought against him by Lord St. Aldwyn, and subsequently by Lord Salisbury, is contained in the words following, which were spoken by him at Plymouth, on November 19th:
[Footnote 269: Letter to Miss Milner, November 11th, 1901. See p. 416.]
"Now I declare, ladies and gentlemen, for myself, that from first to last I have never uttered one syllable that could be twisted by any ingenuity into encouragement by the Boers. No, I have never even expressed ordinary pity for, or sympathy with them, because I did not wish to run the risk of being misunderstood. What I have done, and what I hope I shall continue to do, is to denounce the stupidity of the way in which the Government were dealing with the Boers."
There is only one method by which the amazing effrontery of this denial can be sufficiently exhibited. It is to place underneath it quotations from speeches delivered by Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman himself at Stirling on October 25th, by Mr. Thomas Shaw, M.P., at Galashiels on October 14th, and by Mr. E. Robertson, M.P., at Dundee on October 16th, as printed in the "Official Organ of the Orange Free State Government," dated September 21st, 1901, a copy of which was found in a Boer laager on the veld. The extracts selected are these:
Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman:
"The whole country in the two belligerent States, outside the mining towns, is a howling wilderness. The farms are burned, the country is wasted. The flocks and herds are either butchered or driven off; the mills are destroyed, furniture and instruments of agriculture smashed. These things are what I have termed methods of barbarism. I adhere to the phrase. I cannot improve upon it. If these are not the methods of barbarism, what methods did barbarism employ?... My belief is that the mass of the British people ... do not desire to see a brave people subjugated or annihilated."
Mr. Thomas Shaw, M.P.:
"The war was unnecessary, and therefore unjust.... He wished he could agree that we were fighting in a just cause, that we had always fought according to acknowledged civilised methods; but as an honest man he could not do so."
Mr. Edmund Robertson, M.P.:
"The victory of the Government (at the last General Election) had been the main cause of the prolongation of the war. If they had been defeated their successors would have been men with a free hand, and the Boers themselves might have been ready to make concessions, which they would not make, and had not made, to those whom they believed to be their enemies and persecutors. If the Empire was to be saved, the Government must be destroyed."
[Footnote 270: The facts are stated in a letter published in The Times on March 10th, 1902.]
Can any human being of ordinary intelligence believe that these passages, containing denunciations of the war, were circulated by Ex-President Steyn for any other purpose than that of encouraging the burghers to continue their resistance to the Imperial troops?
And to this evidence may be added the protest made by "An Old Berliner" in The Times of November 27th, 1901:
[Sidenote: "Methods of barbarism".]
"What I want to impress upon your readers is the much more serious and, indeed, incalculable mischief done by the public utterances of responsible politicians, and, to take the most pernicious example of all, by the reckless language of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. The words he uttered about England's methods of barbarism have been used ever since as the watchwords of England's detractors throughout the length and breadth of Germany."
[Footnote 271: See also note, p. 399 (Extract from the Vossische Zeitung). The baseless and malevolent allegations of specific acts of inhumanity or outrage on the part of British soldiers, circulated by Boer sympathisers in England and on the continent of Europe, have been passed over in silence. For an exposure of these calumnies the reader is referred to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The War in South Africa (Smith, Elder). A record of the manner in which they were repudiated by the Boer population in South Africa will be found in Cd. 1, 163, pp. 99, 106-111, 113-121. Among those who protested were German subjects, and Germans who had become British subjects, resident in South Africa. Perhaps the most significant of all these protests is the resolution passed unanimously by the members of the Natal House of Assembly, all standing: "That this House desires to repudiate the false charges of inhumanity brought against His Majesty's Army by a section of the inhabitants of the continent of Europe and certain disloyal subjects within the British Isles, and this House places on record its deliberate conviction that the war in South Africa has been prosecuted by His Majesty's Government and Army upon lines of humanity and consideration for the enemy unparalleled in the history of nations."]
PREPARING FOR PEACE
We have already noticed that arrangements were made in October, 1900, under which the High Commissionership was to be separated from the Governorship of the Cape Colony in order that Lord Milner might be free to undertake the work of administrative reconstruction in the new colonies. In pursuance of this decision of the Home Government, Lord Milner became Administrator of the Transvaal and Orange River Colony upon the departure of Lord Roberts (November 29th, 1900); but circumstances did not permit him to resign the governorship of the Cape Colony and remove to the Transvaal until three months later. The new Governor of the Cape Colony was Sir Walter Hely-Hutchinson, who was himself succeeded, as Governor of Natal, by Sir Henry E. McCallum; and at the same time (March 1st, 1901), Sir H. (then Major) Goold-Adams was appointed Deputy-Administrator of the Orange River Colony, where he took over the duties hitherto discharged by General Pretyman as Military Governor.
[Sidenote: Milner in the Transvaal.]
Lord Milner left Capetown to assume the administration of the new colonies on February 28th, 1901. The incidents of his journey northwards are illustrative alike of the state of South Africa at this time, and of the varied responsibilities of the High Commissioner. After three months of continuous and successful conflict with the forces of rebellion in the south, he was suddenly confronted with a situation in the north even more pregnant with the possibilities of disaster. This was the day on which Commandant-General Louis Botha entered the British lines at Middelburg to treat for peace with General Lord Kitchener; and many counsels of precaution sped northwards upon the wires as the High Commissioner's train crossed the plains and wound slowly up through the mountain passes that led to the higher levels of the Karroo plateau. March 1st, which was spent in the train, was the most idle day that Lord Milner had passed for many months. The respite was of short duration. At midnight, directly after the train had left De Aar junction, a long telegram from Lord Kitchener, giving the substance of his interview with Botha, caught the High Commissioner. But if peace was in the air in the north, war held the field in the south. From De Aar to Bloemfontein the railway line was astir with British troops, concentrating or dispersing, in pursuit of De Wet. At Bloemfontein station Lord Milner was met (March 2nd) by Lord Kitchener, and the nature of the reply to be given to Botha was discussed between them. On the next morning Lord Milner's saloon car was attached to the Commander-in-Chief's train, and a long telegram was drafted and despatched to London. The position which Lord Milner took up on this occasion, and afterwards at the final negotiations of Vereeniging, was that which he had himself condensed in the two words "never again." He was anxious for peace; no man more than he; but a peace upon terms that would leave South Africa with the remotest prospect of a return to the abnormal political conditions which had made the war inevitable, he regarded as a disaster to be avoided at all costs. This telegram despatched, the train left Bloemfontein, and, in spite of more than one sign of the proximity of the Boer raiders, it reached Pretoria without delay at 9 a.m. on March 4th. The next ten days Lord Milner remained at the capital of the Transvaal, in constant communication with the Home Government on the subject of the peace negotiations with the Boers, which ultimately proved abortive; but on the 9th he went over to Johannesburg for the day to see the house which was being prepared for his occupation. On the 15th he left Pretoria finally for Johannesburg. He was received at the station by a guard of honour furnished by the Rand Rifles, and, thus escorted, drove to Sunnyside, a pleasant house in what is now the suburb of Parktown, commanding an unbroken view over the veld to the Magaliesberg range beyond Pretoria; and here he continued to reside until he left South Africa on April 2nd, 1905.