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History of Cape Colony from 1870 to 1899

This article deals with the history of Cape Colony in the future South Africa during the period from about 1870 to the outbreak of the Second Anglo-Boer War in 1899.

Refer to History of Cape Colony for accounts of earlier and later phases.

Table of contents
1 Development of Modern Conditions
2 Origin of the Afrikander Bond
3 Hofmeyr’s Policy
4 Rhodes and Dutch Sentiment
5 South African Customs Union
6 Diamonds and Railways
7 Rhodes as Prime Minister
8 Movement for Commercial Federation
9 Schreiner’s Policy

Development of Modern Conditions

The year 1870 marks the dawn of a new era in South Africa. From that date the development of modern South Africa may be said to have fairly started, and in spite of political complications, arising from time to time, the progress of Cape Colony down to the outbreak of the Boer War of 1899 went steadily forward. The discovery of diamonds on the Orange river in 1867, followed immediately afterwards by the discovery of diamonds on the Vital river, led to the rapid occupation and development of a tract of country which had hitherto been but sparsely inhabited. In 1870 Dutoitspan and Bultfontein diamond mines were discovered, and in 1871 the still richer mines of Kimberley and De Beers. These four great deposits of mineral wealth were richly productive, and constituted the greatest industrial asset which the colony possessed.

At the time of the beginning of the diamond industry, not only the territory of Cape Colony and the Boer Republics, but all South Africa, was in a very depressed condition. Ostrich-farming was in its infancy, and agriculture but little developed. The Boers, except in the immediate vicinity of Cape Town, lived in primitive conditions. Their wants were few, they lacked "enterprise", and the trade of the colony was restricted. Even the British colonists at that time were far from rich. The diamond industry therefore offered considerable attractions, especially to colonists of British origin. It was also the means at length of demonstrating the fact that South Africa, barren and poor on the surface, was rich below the surface. It takes ten acres of Karroo to feed a sheep, but it was now seen that a few square yards of diamondiferous blue ground would feed a dozen families. By the end of 1871 a large population had already gathered at the diamond fields, and immigration continued steadily, bringing new-comers to the rich fields. Among the first to seek a fortune at the diamond fields was Cecil Rhodes.

In 1858 the scheme of Sir George Grey for the federation of the various colonies and states of South Africa had been rejected, as has been stated, by the home authorities. In 1874 the 4th earl of Carnarvon, secretary of state for the colonies, who had been successful in aiding to bring about the federation of Canada, turned his attention to a similar scheme for the confederation of South Africa. The representative government in Cape Colony had been replaced in 1872 by "responsible government", i.e. self-government, and the new parliament at Cape Town resented the manner in which Lord Carnarvon propounded his suggestions. A resolution was passed (11 June 1875) stating that any scheme in favour of confederation must in its opinion originate within South Africa itself. James Anthony Froude, the distinguished historian, was sent out by Lord Carnarvon to further his policy in South Africa. Judging him as a diplomatist and a representative of the British government, the general opinion in South Africa was that Froude was not a success, and he entirely failed to induce the colonists to adopt Lord Carnarvon’s views. In 1876, Fingoland, the Idutywa reserve, and Noman’s-land, tracts of country on the Kaffir frontier, were annexed by Great Britain, on the understanding that the Cape government should provide for their government. Lord Carnarvon, still bent on confederation, now appointed Sir Bartle Frere governor of Cape Colony and high commissioner of South Africa.

Frere had no sooner taken office as high commissioner than he found himself confronted with serious native troubles in Zululand and on the Kaffir frontier of Cape Colony. In 1877 there occurred an outbreak on the part of the Galekas and the Gaikas. A considerable force of imperial and colonial troops was employed to put down this rising, and the war was subsequently known as the Ninth Kaffir war. It was in this war that the famous Kaffir chief, Sandii, lost his life. At its conclusion the Transkei, the territory of the Galeka tribe, under Kreli, was annexed by the British. In the meantime Lord Carnarvon had resigned his position in the British cabinet, and the scheme for confederation which he had been promoting was abandoned.

As a matter of fact, at that time Cape Colony was too fully occupied with "native" troubles to take into consideration very seriously so great a question as confederation. A wave of feeling spread amongst the different Kaffir tribes on the colonial frontier, and after the Gaika-Galeka War there followed in 1879 a rising in Basutoland under Moirosi, whose cattle-raiding had for some time past caused considerable trouble. His stronghold was taken after very severe fighting by a colonial force, but, their defeat notwithstanding, the Basutos remained in a restless and aggressive condition for several years. In 1880 the colonial authorities endeavoured to extend to Basutoland the Peace Preservation Act of 1878, under which a general disarmament of the Basutos was attempted. Further fighting followed on this proclamation, which was by no means successful, and although peace was declared in the country in December 1882, the colonial authorities were very glad in 1884 to be relieved of the administration of a country which had already cost them £3,000,000. The imperial government then took over Basutoland as a crown colony, on the understanding that Cape Colony should contribute for administrative purposes £18,000 annually.

In 1880, Sir Bartle Frere, who by his energetic and statesmanlike attitude on the relations with the native states, as well as on all other questions, had won the esteem and regard of loyal South African colonists, was recalled by the 1st earl of Kimberley, the liberal secretary of state for the colonies, and was succeeded by Sir Hercules Robinson. Griqualand West, which included the diamond fields, was now incorporated as a portion of Cape Colony.

Origin of the Afrikander Bond

The Boer War of 1881, with its disastrous termination, naturally reacted throughout South Africa; and as one of the most important results, in the year 1882 the first Afrikander Bond congress was held at Graaff Reinet. The organization of the Bond developed into one embracing the Transvaal, the Orange Free State and Cape Colony. Each country had a provincial committee with district committees, and branches were distributed throughout the whole of South Africa. At a later date the Bond in the Cape Colony dissociated itself from its Republican branches. The general lines of policy which this organization endeavoured to promote may best be gathered from De Patriot, a paper published in the colony, and an avowed supporter of the organization. The following extracts from articles published in 1882 will illustrate, better than anything else, the ambition entertained by some of the promoters of this organisation.

The Afrikander Bond has for its object the establishment of a South African nationality by spreading a true love for what is really our fatherland. No better time could be found for establishing the Bond than the present, when the consciousness of nationality has been thoroughly aroused by the Transvaal war... The British government keep on talking about a confederation under the British flag, but that will never be brought about. They can be quite certain of that. There is just one obstacle in the way of confederation, and that is the British flag. Let them remove that, and in less than a year the confederation would be established under the Free Afrikander flag.

After a time the English will realize that the advice given them by Froude was the best — they must just have Simon’s Bay as a naval and military station on the way to India, and give over all the rest of South Africa to the Afrikanders... Our principal weapon in the social war must be the destruction of English trade by our establishing trading companies for ourselves ...It is the duty of each true Afrikander not to spend anything with the English that he can avoid.

De Patriot afterwards became imperialist, but Ons Land, another Bond organ, continued in much the same strain.

In addition to having its press organs, the Bond from time-to-time published official utterances less frank in their tone than the statements of its press. Some of the Articles of the Bond’s original manifesto are entirely praiseworthy, e.g. those referring to the administration of justice, the honour of the people, etc.; such clauses as these, however, were, meaningless in view of the enlightened government which obtained in Cape Colony, and for the true "inwardness" of this document it is necessary to note Article 3, which distinctly speaks of the promotion of South Africa’s independence (Zelfstandieheid).

If the Bond aroused disloyalty and mistaken aspirations in one section of the Cape inhabitants, it is equally certain that it caused a great wave of loyal and patriotic enthusiasm to pass through another section. A pamphlet written in 1885 for an association called the Empire League by Mr Charles Leonard, who afterwards consistently championed the cause of civil equality and impartial justice in South Africa, maintained as follows:—

(1) That the establishment of the English government here was beneficial to all classes; and
(2) that the withdrawal of that government would be disastrous to every one having vested interests in the colony. . . . England never can, never will, give up this colony, and we colonists will never give up England. Let us, the inhabitants of the Cape Colony, be swift to recognize that we are one people, cast together under a glorious flag of liberty, with heads clear enough to appreciate the freedom we enjoy, and hearts resolute to maintain our true privileges; let us desist from reproaching and insulting one another, and, rejoicing that we have this goodly land as a common heritage, remember that by united action only can we realize its grand possibilities. We belong both of us to a home-loving stock, and the peace and prosperity of every home in the land is at stake. On our action now depends the question whether our children shall curse or bless us; whether we shall live in their memory as promoters of civil strife, with all its miserable consequences, or as joint architects of a happy, prosperous and united state. Each of us looks back to a noble past. United, we may ensure to our descendants a not unworthy future. Disunited, we can hope for nothing but stagnation, misery and ruin. Is this a light thing ?

It is probable that many Englishmen reading Mr Leonard’s manifesto at the time regarded it as unduly alarming, but subsequent events proved the soundness of the views it expressed. The fact is that, from 1881 onwards, two great rival ideas came into being, each strongly opposed to the other. One was that of Imperialism — full civil rights for every "civilized" man, whatever his race might be, under the supremacy and protection of Great Britain. The other was nominally republican, but in fact exclusively oligarchical and Dutch. The policy of the extremists of this last party was summed up in the appeal which President Kruger made to the Free State in February 1881, when he bade them: "Come and help us. God is with us. It is his will to unite us as a people ... to make a united South Africa free from British authority."

The two actual founders of the Bond party were Mr Borckenhagen, a German who was residing in Bloemfontein, and Mr Reitz, afterwards state secretary of the Transvaal. Two interviews have been recorded which show the true aims of these two promoters of the Bond at the outset. One occurred between Mr Borckenhagen and Cecil Rhodes, the other between Mr Reitz and Mr T. Schreiner, whose brother became, at a later date, prime minister of Cape Colony. In the first interview Mr Borckenhagen remarked to Rhodes: "We want a united Africa," and Rhodes replied: "So do I". Mr Borckenhagen then continued: "There is nothing in the way; we will take you as our leader. There is only one small thing: we must, of course, be independent of the rest of the world." Rhodes replied: "You take me either for a rogue or a fool. I should be a rogue to forfeit all my history and my traditions; and I should be a fool, because I should be hated by my own countrymen and mistrusted by yours."

But as Rhodes said at Cape Town in 1898, "The only chance of a true union is the overshadowing protection of a supreme power, and any German, Frenchman, or Russian would tell you that the best and most liberal power is that over which Her Majesty reigns."

The other interview took place at the beginning of the Bond’s existence. Being approached by Mr Reitz, Mr T. Schreiner objected that the Bond aimed ultimately at the overthrow of British rule and the expulsion of the British flag from South Africa. To this Mr Reitz replied: "Well, what if it is so?" Mr. Schreiner expostulated in the following terms: "You do not suppose that that flag is going to disappear without a tremendous struggle and hard fighting?" "Well, I suppose not, but even SO, what of that?" rejoined Mr Reitz.

In the face of this testimony with reference to two of the most prominent of the Bond’s promoters, it is impossible to deny that from its beginning the great underlying idea of the Bond was an independent South Africa.

Hofmeyr’s Policy

In 1882 an act was passed in the Cape legislative assembly, empowering members to speak in the Dutch language on the floor of the House if they so desired. The intention of this act was a liberal one, but the moment of its introduction was inopportune, and its effect was to give an additional stimulus to the policy of the Bond. It was probably also the means of bringing into the House a number of Dutchmen, by no means well-educated, who would not have been returned had they been obliged to speak English. By this act an increase of influence was given to the Dutch leaders. The head of the Afrikander Bond at this time in Cape Colony, and the leader of Dutch opinion, was Mr J. H. Hofmeyr, a man of undoubted ability and astuteness. Although he was recognized leader of the Dutch party in Cape Colony, he consistently refused to take office, preferring to direct the policy and the action of others from an independent position. Mr Hofmeyr sat in the house of assembly as member for Stellenbosch, a strong Dutch constituency. His influence over the Dutch members was supreme, and in addition to directing the policy of the Bond within the Cape Colony, he supported and defended the aggressive expansion policy of President Kruger and the Transvaal Boers.

In 1883, during a debate on the Basutoland Dis-annexation Bill, Rhodes openly charged Mr Hofmeyr in the House with a desire to see a "United States of South Africa under its own flag". In 1884 Mr Hofmeyr led the Bond in strongly supporting the Transvaal Boers who had invaded Bechuanaland, proclaiming that if the Bechuanaland freebooters were not permitted to retain the territories they had seized, in total disregard of the terms of the conventions of 1881 and 1884, there would be rebellion among the Dutch of Cape Colony. Fortunately, however, for the peace of Cape Colony at that time, Sir Charles Warren, sent by the imperial government to maintain British rights, removed the invading Boers from Stellaland and Goshen — two republics set up by the Boer invaders in March 1885 - and no rebellion occurred. Nevertheless the Bond party was so strong in the House that they compelled the ministry under Sir Thomas Scanlen to resign in 1884.

The logical and constitutional course for Mr Hofmeyr to have followed in these circumstances would have been to accept office and himself form a government. This he refused to do. He preferred to put in a nominee of his own who should be entirely dependent on him. Mr Upington, a clever Irish barrister, was the man he selected, and under him was formed in 1884 what will always be known in Cape history as the "Warming-pan" ministry. This action was denounced by many British colonists, who were sufficiently loyal, not only to Great Britain, but also to that constitution which had been conferred by Great Britain upon Cape Colony, to desire to see the man who really wielded political power also acting as the responsible head of the party. It was Mr Hofmeyr’s refusal to accept this responsibility, as well as the nature of his Bond policy, which won for him the political sobriquet of "the Mole". Open and responsible exercise of a power conferred under the constitution of the country, Englishmen and English colonists would have accepted and even welcomed. But that subterranean method of Dutch policy which found its strongest expression in Pretoria, and which operated from Pretoria to Cape Town, could not but be resented by Britain-loyal colonists.

From 1881 down to 1898, Mr Hofmeyr practically determined how Dutch members should vote, and also what policy the Bond should adopt at every juncture in its history. In 1895 he resigned his seat in parliament — an action which made his political dictatorship still more remarkable. This influence on Cape politics was a demoralizing one. Other well-known politicians at the Cape subsequently found it convenient to adapt their views a good deal too readily to those held by the Bond. In justice to Mr Hofmeyr, however, it is only fair to say that after the Warren expedition in 1885, which was at least evidence that Great Britain did not intend to renounce her supremacy in South Africa altogether, he adopted a less hostile or less anti-British attitude. The views of Mr Hofmeyr between 1881 and 1884 — when even pro-British colonists, looking to the events which followed the Battle of Majuba Hill, had almost come to believe that Great Britain had little desire to maintain her supremacy — can scarcely be wondered at.

Rhodes and Dutch Sentiment

Recognizing the difficulties of the position, Cecil Rhodes from the outset of his political career showed his desire to conciliate Dutch sentiment by considerate treatment and regard for Dutch prejudices. Rhodes was first returned as member of the House of Assembly for Barkly West in 1880, and in spite of all vicissitudes this constituency remained loyal to him. He supported the bill permitting the use of Dutch in the House of Assembly in 1882, and early in 1884 he first took office, as treasurer-general, under Sir Thomas Scanlen. Rhodes had only held this position for six weeks when Sir Thomas Scanlen resigned, and in August 1884 he was sent by Sir Hercules Robinson to British Bechuanaland as deputy-commissioner in succession to the Reverend John Mackenzie, the London Missionary Society’s representative at Kuruman, who in May 1883 had proclaimed the queen’s authority over the district. Rhodes’s efforts to conciliate the Boers failed -- hence the necessity for the Warren mission. In 1885 the territories of Cape Colony were farther extended, and Tembuland, Bomvanaland and Galekaland were formally added to the colony. In 1886 Sir Gordon Sprigg became prime minister.

South African Customs Union

The period from 1878 to 1885 in Cape Colony had been one of considerable unrest. In this short time, in addition to the chronic troubles with the Basutos — which led the Cape to hand them over to the imperial authorities — there occurred a series of native disturbances which were followed by the First Boer War of 1881, and the Bechuanaland disturbances of 1884. In spite, however, of these drawbacks, the development of the country proceeded. The diamond industry was flourishing. In 1887 a conference was held in London for "promoting a closer union between the various parts of the British empire by means of an imperial tariff of customs". At this conference it is worthy of note that Mr Hofmeyr propounded a sort of "Zollverein" scheme, in which imperial customs were to be levied independently of the duties payable on all goods entering the empire from abroad. In making the proposition he stated that his objects were "to promote the union of the empire, and at the same time to obtain revenue for the purposes of general defence". The scheme was not at the time found practicable. But its authorship, as well as the sentiments accompanying it, created a favourable view of Mr Hofmeyr’s attitude.

In the year 1888, in spite of the failure of statesmen and high commissioners to bring about political confederation, the members of the Cape parliament set about the establishment of a South African Customs Union. A Customs Union Bill was passed, and this in itself constituted a considerable development of the idea of federation. Shortly after the passing of the bill the Orange Free State entered the union. An endeavour was also made then, and for many years afterwards, to get the Transvaal to join. But President Kruger, consistently pursuing his own policy, hoped through the Delagoa Bay railway to make the South African Republic entirely independent of Cape Colony. The endeavour to bring about a customs union which would embrace the Transvaal was also little to the taste of President Kruger’s Hollander advisers, interested as they were in the schemes of the Netherlands Railway Company, who owned the railways of the Transvaal.

Diamonds and Railways

Another event of considerable commercial importance to the Cape Colony, and indeed to South Africa, was the amalgamation in 1889 of the diamond-mining companies, chiefly brought about by Cecil Rhodes, Alfred Beit and "Barney" Barnato. One of the principal and most beneficent results of the discovery and development of the diamond mines was the great impetus which it gave to railway extension. Lines were opened up to Worcester and Beaufort West, to Graham’s Town, Graaff Reinet and Queenstown. Kimberley was reached in 1885. In 1890 the line was extended northwards on the western frontier of the Transvaal as far as Vryburg in Bechuanaland. In 1889 the Free State entered into an arrangement with the Cape Colony whereby the main trunk railway was extended to Bloemfontein, the Free State receiving half the profits. Subsequently the Free State bought at cost price the portion of the railway in its own territory. In 1891 the Free State railway was still farther extended to Viljoen’s Drift on the Vaal river, and in 1892 it reached Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Rhodes as Prime Minister

In 1889 Sir Henry Loch was appointed high commissioner and governor of Cape Colony in succession to Sir Hercules Robinson. In 1890 Sir Gordon Sprigg, the premier of the colony, resigned, and a Rhodes government was formed. Prior to the formation of this ministry, and while Sir Gordon Sprigg was still in office, Mr Hofmeyr approached Rhodes and offered to put him in office as a Bond nominee. This offer was declined. When, however, Rhodes was invited to take office after the downfall of the Sprigg ministry, he asked the Bond leaders to meet him and discuss the situation. His policy of customs and railway unions between the various states, added to the personal esteem in which he was at this time held by many of the Dutchmen, enabled him to undertake and to carry on successfully the business of government.

The colonies of British Bechuanaland and Basutoland were now taken into the customs union existing between the Orange Free State and Cape Colony. Pondoland, another native territory, was added to the colony in 1894, and the year was marked by the Glen Grey Act, a departure in native policy for which Rhodes was chiefly responsible. It dealt with the natives residing in certain native reserves, and in addition to providing for their interests and holdings, and in other ways protecting the privileges accorded to them, the principle of the duty of some degree of labour devolving upon every able-bodied native enjoying these privileges was asserted, and a small labour tax was levied. This was in many respects the most statesmanlike act dealing with natives on the statute-book; and in the session of 1895 Rhodes was able to report to the Cape parliament that the Act then applied to 160,000 natives. In 1905 the labour clauses of this act, which had fallen into desuetude, were repealed. The clauses had, however, achieved success, in that they had caused many thousands of natives to fulfil the conditions requisite to claim exemption.

In other respects Rhodes’s native policy was marked by combined consideration and firmness. Ever since the granting of self-government the natives had enjoyed the franchise. An act passed in 1892, at the instance of Rhodes, imposed an educational test on applicants for registration, and made other provisions, all tending to restrict the acquisition of the franchise by "tribal" natives, the possible "danger" arising from a large native vote being already "obvious".

Rhodes opposed the native liquor traffic, and at the risk of offending some of his supporters among the brandy-farmers of the western provinces, he suppressed it entirely on the diamond mines, and restricted it as far as he was able in the native reserves and territories. Nevertheless the continuance of this traffic on colonial farms, as well as to some extent in the native territories and reserves, is a black spot in the annals of the Cape Colony. The Hottentots have been terribly demoralized, and even partially destroyed by it in the western province.

Another and little-known instance of Rhodes’s keen insight in dealing with native affairs - an action which had lasting results on the history of the colony - may be given. After the native territories east of the Kei had been added to Cape Colony, a case of claim to inheritance came up for trial, and in accordance with the law of the colony, the court held that the eldest son of a native was his heir. This decision created the strongest resentment among the people of the territory, as it was in distinct contradiction to aative tribal law, which recognized the great son, or son of the chief wife, as heir. The government were threatened with a native disturbance, when Rhodes telegraphed his assurance that compensation should be granted, and that such a decision should never be given again. This assurance was accepted and tranquillity restored. At the close of the next session (that of 1894), after this incident had occurred, Rhodes laid on the table a bill drafted by himself, the shortest the House had ever seen. It provided that all civil cases were to be tried by magistrates, an appeal to lie only to the chief magistrate of the territory with an assessor. Criminal cases were to be tried before the judges of supreme court on circuit. The bill was passed, and the effect of it was, inasmuch as the magistrates administered according to native law, that native marriage customs and laws (including polygamy) were legalized in these territories. Rhodes had retrieved his promise, and no one who has studied and lived amongst the Bantu will question that the action taken was both beneficent and wise.

During 1895 Sir Hercules Robinson was reappointed governor and high commissioner of South Africa in succession to Sir Henry Loch, and in the same year Mr Chamberlain became secretary of state for the colonies.

Movement for Commercial Federation

With the development of railways and the extension of trade between Cape Colony and the Transvaal, there had grown up a closer relationship on political questions. Whilst premier of Cape Colony, by means of the customs union. and in every other way, Rhodes endeavoured to bring about a friendly measure of at least commercial federation among the states and colonies of South Africa. He hoped to establish both a commercial and a railway union, and a speech which he made in 1894 at Cape Town admirably describes this policy:—

With full affection for the flag which I have been born under, and the flag I represent, I can understand the sentiment and feeling of a republican who has created his independence, and values that before all; but I can say fairly that I believe in the future that I can assimilate the system, which I have been connected with, with the Cape Colony, and it is not an impossible idea that the neighbouring republics, retaining their independence, should share with us as to certain general principles. If I might put it to you, I would say the principles of tariffs, the principle of railway connexion, the principle of appeal in law, the principle of coinage, and in fact all those principles which exist at the present moment in the United States, irrespective of the local assemblies which exist in each separate state in that country.

To this policy President Kruger and the Transvaal government offered every possible opposition. Their action in what is known as the Vaal River Drift question will best illustrate the line of action which the Transvaal government believed it expedient to adopt. A difficulty arose at the termination of the agreement in 1894 between the Cape government railway and the Netherlands railway. The Cape government, for the purposes of carrying the railway from the Vaal river to Johannesburg, had advanced the sum of £600,000 to the Netherlands railway and the Transvaal government conjointly; at the same time it was stipulated that the Cape government should have the right to fix the traffic rate until the end of 1894, or until such time as the Delagoa Bay—Pretoria line was completed. These rates were fixed by the Cape government at 2d. per ton per mile, but at the beginning of 1895 the rate for the 52 miles of railway from the Vaal river to Johannesburg was raised by the Netherlands railway to no less a sum than 8d. per ton per mile. It is quite evident from the action which President Kruger subsequently took in the matter that this charge was put on with his approval, and with the object of compelling traffic to be brought to the Transvaal by the Delagoa route, instead of as heretofore by the colonial railway. In order to compete against this very high rate, the merchants of Johannesburg began removing their goods from the Vaal river by wagon. Thereupon President Kruger arbitrarily closed the drifts (fords) on the Vaal river, and thus prevented through-wagon traffic, causing an enormous block of wagons on the banks of the Vaal. A protest was then made by the Cape government against the action of the Transvaal, on the ground that it was a breach of the London Convention.

President Kruger took no notice of this remonstrance, and an appeal was made to the imperial government; whereupon the latter entered into an agreement with the Cape government, to the effect that if the Cape would bear half the cost of any expedition which should be necessary, assist with troops, and give full use of the Cape railway for military purposes if required, a protest should be sent to President Kruger on the subject. These terms were accepted by Rhodes and his colleagues, of whom Mr W. P. Schreiner was one, and a protest was then sent by Mr Chamberlain stating that the government would regard the closing of the drifts as a breach of the London Convention, and as an unfriendly action calling for the gravest remonstrance. President Kruger at once reopened the drifts, and undertook that he would issue no further proclamation on the subject except after consultation with the imperial government.

On 29 December 1895 Dr Jameson made his famous raid into the Transvaal, and Rhodes’s complicity in this movement compelled him to resign the premiership of Cape Colony in January 1896, the vacant post being taken by Sir Gordon Sprigg. As Rhodes’s complicity in the raid became known, there naturally arose a strong feeling of resentment and astonishment among his colleagues in the Cape ministry, who had been kept in complete ignorance of his connexion with any such scheme. Mr Hofmeyr and the Bond were loud in their denunciation of him, nor can it be denied that the circumstances of the raid greatly embittered against England the Dutch element in Cape Colony, and influenced their subsequent attitude towards the Transvaal Boers.

In 1897 a native rising occurred under Galeshwe, a Bantu chief, in Griqualand West. Galeshwe was arrested and the rebellion repressed. On cross-examination Galeshwe stated that Bosman, a magistrate of the Transvaal, had supplied ammunition to him, and had urged him to rebel against the government of Cape Colony. There is every reason to suppose that this charge was true, and it is consistent with the intrigues which the Boers from time to time practised among the natives.

In 1897 Sir Alfred Milner was appointed high commissioner of South Africa and governor of Cape Colony, in succession to Sir Hercules Robinson, who had been created a peer under the title of Baron Rosmead in August 1896.

Schreiner’s Policy

In 1898 commercial federation in South Africa advanced another stage, Natal entering the customs union. A fresh convention was drafted at this time, and under it "a uniform tariff on all imported goods consumed within such union, and an equitable distribution of the duties collected on such goods amongst the parties to such union, and free trade between the colonies and state in respect of all South African products" was arranged. In the same year, too, the Cape parliamentary election occurred, and the result was the return to power of a Bond ministry under Mr W. P. Schreiner. From this time, until June 1900, Mr Schreiner remained in office as head of the Cape government. During the negotiations which preceded the outbreak of the Second Boer War in 1899, feeling at the Cape ran very high, and Mr Schreiner’s attitude was very freely discussed. As head of a party, dependent for its position in power on the Bond’s support, his position was undoubtedly a trying one. At the same time, as prime minister of a British colony, it was strongly felt by loyal colonists that he should at least have refrained from openly interfering between the Transvaal and the imperial government during the course of most difficult negotiations. His public expressions of opinion were hostile in tone to the policy pursued by Mr Chamberlain and Sir Alfred Milner. The effect of them, it was believed, might conceivably be to encourage President Kruger in persisting in his rejection of the British terms. Mr Schreiner, it is true, used directly what influence he possessed to induce President Kruger to adopt a "reasonable" course. But however excellent his intentions, his publicly expressed disapproval of the Chamberlain/Milner policy probably did more harm than his private influence with Mr Kruger could possibly do good. On 11 June 1899, shortly after the Bloemfontein conference, from which Sir Alfred Milner had just returned, Mr Schreiner asked the high commissioner to inform Mr Chamberlain that he and his colleagues agreed in regarding President Kruger’s Bloemfontein proposals as "practical, reasonable and a considerable step in the right direction". Early in June, however, the Cape Dutch politicians began to realize that President Kruger’s attitude was not so reasonable as they had endeavoured to persuade themselves, and Mr Hofmeyr, accompanied by Mr Herholdt, the Cape minister of agriculture, visited Pretoria. On arrival, they found that the Transvaal Volksraad, in a spirit of defiance and even levity, had just passed a resolution offering four new seats in the Volksraad to the mining districts, and fifteen to exclusively burgher districts. Mr Hofmeyr, on meeting the executive, freely expressed indignation at these proceedings. Unfortunately, Mr Hofmeyr’s influence was more than counterbalanced by an emissary from the Free State, Mr Abraham Fischer, who, while purporting to be a peacemaker, practically encouraged the Boer executive to take extreme measures. Mr Hofmeyr’s established reputation as an astute diplomatist, and as the trusted leader for years of the Cape Dutch party, made him as powerful a delegate as it was possible to find. If any emissary could accomplish anything in the way of persuading Mr Kruger, it was assuredly Mr Hofmeyr. Much was looked for from his mission by moderates of all parties, and by none more so, it is fair to believe, than by Mr Schreiner. But Mr Hofmeyr’s mission, like every other mission to Mr Kruger to induce him to take a "reasonable" and equitable course, proved entirely fruitless. He returned to Cape Town disappointed, but probably not altogether surprised at the failure of his mission. Meanwhile a new proposal was drafted by the Boer executive, which, before it was received in its entirety, or at least before it was clearly understood, elicited from Mr Schreiner a letter on 7 July to the South African News, in which, referring to his government, he said:— "While anxious and continually active with good hope in the cause of securing reasonable modifications of the existing representative system of the South African Republic, this government is convinced that no ground whatever exists for active interference in the internal affairs of that republic".

This letter was precipitate and unfortunate. On 11 July, after seeing Mr Hofmeyr on his return, Mr Schreiner made a personal appeal to President Kruger to approach the imperial government in a friendly spirit. At this time an incident occurred which raised the feeling against Mr Schreiner to a very high pitch. On 7 July 500 rifles and 1,000,000 rounds of ammunition were landed at Port Elizabeth, consigned to the Free State government, and forwarded to Bloemfontein. Mr Schreiner’s attention was called to this consignment at the time, but he refused to stop it, alleging as his reason that, inasmuch as Great Britain was at peace with the Free State, he had no right to interdict the passage of arms through the Cape Colony. The British colonist is as capable of a grim jest as the Transvaal Boer, and this action of Mr Schreiner’s won for him the nickname "Ammunition Bill". At a later date he was accused of delay in forwarding artillery and rifles for the defence of Kimberley, Mafeking and other towns of the colony. The reason he gave for delay was that he did not anticipate war; and that he did not wish to excite unwarrantable suspicions in the minds of the Free State. His conduct in both instances was perhaps technically correct, but it was much resented by loyal colonists.

On 28 July Mr Chamberlain sent a conciliatory despatch to President Kruger, suggesting a meeting of delegates to consider and report on his last franchise proposals, which were complex to a degree. Mr Schreiner, on 3 August, telegraphed to Mr Fischer begging the Transvaal to welcome Mr Chamberlain’s proposal. At a later date, on receiving an inquiry from the Free State as to the movements of British troops, Mr Schreiner curtly refused any information, and referred the Free State to the high commissioner. On 28 August Sir Gordon Sprigg in the House of Assembly moved the adjournment of the debate to discuss the removal of arms to the Free State. Mr Schreiner, in reply, used expressions which called down upon him the severest censure and indignation, both in the colony and in Great Britain. He stated that, should the storm burst, he would keep the colony aloof with regard both to its forces and its people. In the course of the speech he also read a telegram from President Steyn, in which the president repudiated all contemplated aggressive action on the part of the Free State as absurd. The speech created a great sensation in the British press. It was probably forgotten at the time (though Lord Kimberley afterwards publicly stated it) that one of the chief reasons why the William Gladstone government had granted the retrocession of the Transvaal after Majuba, was the fear that the Cape Colonial Dutch would join their kinsmen if the war continued. What was a danger in 1881, Mr Schreiner knew to be a still greater danger in 1899.

At the same time it is quite obvious, from a review of Mr Schreiner’s conduct through the latter half of 1899, that he took an entirely mistaken view of the Transvaal situation. He evinced, as premier of the Cape Colony, the same inability to understand the Uitlanders' grievances, the same futile belief in the eventual fairness of President Kruger, as he had shown when giving evidence before the British South Africa Select Committee into the causes of the Jameson Raid. Actual experience taught him that President Kruger was beyond an appeal to reason, and that the protestations of President Steyn were insincere.

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The story continues in: History of Cape Colony from the Second Anglo-Boer War: 1899 - 1910