페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

between the British Empire and the Dutch Republics had begun. Ninety-nine Englishmen out of every hundred became convinced that the safety of their South African dominions could not be ensured by anything less than the annexation of the two Republics. The policy of distinct national sovereignties had been tried, and had failed. The circumstances of the British colonies in South Africa were peculiar. And those who argued that because peace, after war between European nations, is usually re-established by adjustments, not by the extinction of the defeated nation, a similar course might be pursued in Africa, were really shutting their eyes to the main conditions of the case with which they had to deal. There never was a moment, from the battle of Talana to the final surrender on Lord Kitchener's terms, when a British Ministry would have been justified in making peace without establishing British sovereignty over the whole of South Africa. The temper of the people made such a policy impossible; and, for our part, we think the popular instinct was right.

The Union Jack now waves over South Africa. British sovereignty is supreme, and is undisputed. After very heavy trials and great sacrifices, and risks greater than the public has ever realised, the fixed purpose of the nation has prevailed. The Ministry has spared no effort and shrunk from no expenditure which the attainment of the national purpose required. From the beginning to the end there has not been even the shadow of vacillation on the part of the Government; and the enormous supplies it has had to ask from Parliament have been voted by immense majorities of the House of Commons. It is true that occasionally the Government, by its own acts or the acts of its agents, has laid itself open to deserved criticism and unfavourable comment-which officialism and ultrapolitical partisanship have, as usual in time of war, endeavoured to represent as the mere cavilling of those who were the friends of the nation's enemies. Criticism has, however (also as usual), done good. Exposure has brought remedy. And British methods of free speech and open comment upon the conduct of affairs by our public men have once more vindicated themselves as the best means, on the whole, of our reaching a satisfactory result.

It was not possible that the war should change all the conditions of the South African problem. Short-sighted men three years ago assured us that the vindication of British prestige by defeating in the field the armed burghers

est of the Goverom Parliamef Commons

of the Transvaal would make an end for ever of every difficulty, and would at once enable our South African dominions to start upon that course of prosperous selfgovernment to which our other great colonies have accustomed us. As a matter of fact, South Africa was not suffering from a disease which could be entirely cut out of the body politic by the sword. By arms Great Britain has vindicated her authority throughout South Africa. Two new States have been added to her dominions. But the real danger to Great Britain in South Africa did not consist in the power of the Dutch Republics, as separate States, 80 much as in the possibility that the determined hostility to the British of a few fanatical or self-interested politicians, working upon the national suspicions and fears of the burghers of the Transvaal, would become the predominant sentiment of the South African Dutch. Lord Milner has told us indeed, many circumstances clearly established the factthat three years ago the immense majority of the Dutch of Cape Colony were perfectly loyal to the British Crown and flag. Englishmen and Dutchmen were able to work together, and the notion that Cape Colony could not be trusted with constitutional government would have been dismissed as too absurd to deserve serious consideration. When war with the Transvaal seemed to be approaching, the suggestion that even at the best racial war would be but a bad foundation on which to build up constitutional government was scouted. Nay, even after the war had begun, Sir Alfred Milner in various proclamations assured the people of Cape Colony that their constitutional privileges were perfectly safe, and though necessity had compelled the proclamation of martial law in certain districts, he implored our Dutch fellow-subjects to disbelieve the falsehoods' spread by our enemies that when the war was over they would be deprived of the political rights they had previously enjoyed.*

It is really astonishing how little throughout all these troubles men have foreseen what, on looking back, appear to have been the inevitable consequences of each step as it was taken. It was anticipated in quarters that at least ought to have been well informed that the break up of the Bloemfontein Conference, the despatch of troops to South Africa, and the calling out of the reserves would induce the Boers of the Transvaal to surrender everything that was asked, in all probability without striking a blow. It was not believed that the Orange Free State would throw in its lot with the Transvaal; and, when it did so, we were assured that that would greatly facilitate our military operations. It was not anticipated that the Constitution of Cape Colony would have to be disregarded or abrogated and martial law established over the whole of South Africa. Nor when these steps became necessary was it realised that they must inevitably be followed by sentiments the very reverse of those which we wished to encourage amongst men of Dutch blood towards government under the British flag. To us it appears that we have not yet reached the end of a period of continued disappointment due to the determination to believe what we wish rather than what the facts render in the highest degree probable.

* Correspondence relating to affairs in South Africa,' presented to Parliament, January 1900.

The dominating fact of the South African situation is of course unchanged—the fact of the existence side by side of the British, the Dutch, and the black populations. Amongst people of European blood the Dutch predominate to an enormous extent outside a few of the principal towns. The country is, in fact, Dutch in blood, in speech, in sympathy. So far as we can see, there is practically no more prospect of anglicising the population of the boundless rural regions of Cape Colony than there is of anglicising the French of Lower Canada. Dutch they are, and for generations to come Dutch they will remain. There is only one thing to be done, and that is a very difficult thing, and will require time

-viz, to win their good will. The war, however convinced Englishmen may be of its necessity, could not but intensify racial animosity, and thereby increase the essential difficulty of the South African problem. During the last three years military considerations have necessarily been more important than anything else, but they should not make us forget that the ultimate problem is not a military one, but one which must be faced by statesmen. This being undoubtedly the case, it is not a little curious that it has been a soldier who has not only most keenly appreciated the necessity of bringing British and Dutch into relations of friendship, but who has been most successful in calling out, surely under adverse conditions, a sentiment of positive good will from his former foes. Men with such gifts as Lord Kitchener are unfortunately rare. With him, and under him, it might even be possible for those who have recently led against us their armies in the field to labour for the reconstruction of a system of law and local freedom for what is now our common country--a system which can never be really established unless men of Dutch as well as of English sympathies assist the good work both in Cape Colony and our new provinces. Nothing could be more satisfactory than the bearing towards each other, after the peace, of the British and Boer fighting men who had just been engaged in deadly conflict. The feeling at once sprang up of mutual respect between those who had had a severe and honourable conflict and had fairly fought it out. Reproaches and recriminations, of which there had been too many in the past, were forgotten, and the combatants agreed with mutual heartiness to shake hands in good faith as friends.

Lord Milner and Lord Kitchener were far too wise to countenance the foolish view that British prestige required from the Boers in the field an unconditional surrender. In March 1901 they and Mr. Chamberlain had shown that they were ready and willing to make conditions so long as the question of sovereignty was placed beyond dispute. Inconsiderate and unfortunate speeches were made on this subject which certainly did nothing to bring peace nearer, since they tended to obscure the intentions which the Colonial Secretary had throughout professed and ultimately carried out. The conditions finally accepted were, as we have said, generous, as, indeed, were those (substantially the same) offered a year and a half ago. The terms finally accepted by the Boers were, in regard to pecuniary assistance, more liberal to them than those offered in 1901.

By the agreement between Lord Kitchener and Lord Milner, on behalf of the British, and Messrs. Steyn, De Wet, Reitz, Louis Botha, Delarey, and other leaders of the Boers on the part of the two Republics, the Boers in the field were to lay down their arms and acknowledge King Edward VII. Burghers in the field outside the Transvaal and Orange Colony, and prisoners of war, on accepting the position of British subjects, were to be returned to their homes as free men so soon as transport could be provided and their subsistence insured. Dutch was to be taught in the schools when the parents wished it, and used in the law courts when required for the better administration of justice. Rifles would be allowed, under licence, to those requiring them for their protection. Military administration in the two new colonies would at the earliest possible date be succeeded by civil government, and as soon as circumstances permitted representative institutions, leading up to self-government, would be introduced.' Measures were to be taken to restore the people to their homes, and the Government was to provide 3,000,0001., and further to grant loans free of interest for two years, and subsequently at 3 per cent., in order to assist those who, owing to war losses, are unable to start themselves in their normal occupations. It was further arranged, though not mentioned in the agreement with the Boer leaders, that Cape Colony rebels of the rank and file, on pleading guilty, should be disfranchised for life, and that rebels of higher grade should be triable in the Colony for high treason, but that in no case should the penalty of death be inflicted.

If peace was to be re-established on the basis of annexation, it is difficult to see how more favourable conditions could have been granted to our new fellow-subjects. It is a terrible thing for a high-spirited and freedom-loving people to surrender a national independence for which they have fought for years and for which so many of their countrymen had ungrudgingly laid down their lives. Lord Kitchener evidently appreciated this; and his chivalrous and statesmanlike manner of treating his vanquished foes did fully as much as the conditions of the agreement itself to raise sentiments of friendship and good will amongst the Boer soldiers. The British Commander-in-Chief, it is clear, had never regarded Boer resistance to conquest as the action of brigands, but rather that of patriotic and brave men; and he complimented them on the courageous way in which they had done their duty. There was no disgrace,' he said, in • being defeated by an overwhelming force. If he had been • one of them he would be proud to do as they had done. • He welcomed them as citizens of a great Empire, and hoped

they would do their duty to it and their Sovereign as • loyally as they had done it to the old State.'*

So much for the war and the immediate future of the new colonies. But what is to be done with regard to the present situation in Cape Colony, the most important part of our old South African dominion ? Natal, it is generally assumed, will still be enabled to carry on its constitutional system, but the conditions there are, of course, very different from those of the Cape. In the latter colony every course is beset with great difficulties which are not to be wholly disposed of by the invocation of constitutional maxims on the

* Lord Kitchener at Vereeniging.— Times, June 5, 1902.

« 이전계속 »