A CENTURY OF WRONG
Uitlander grievances and Capitalistic agitation.
While the two Governments were occupied with this question the Capitalists were not idle. They were busy fanning the flame in another direction. It was not only a fact that Rhodesia was an unexpected failure, but it had proved far richer in native wars than in payable gold mines. The Capitalist groups possessing the greatest interests in the Witwatersrand gold mines were also the most deeply interested in Rhodesia, and it naturally occurred to them that their Transvaal mines ought also to bear the burden of their unprofitable investments in Rhodesia—an adjustment which would, however, necessitate the amalgamation of the two countries, especially when the interests of the shareholders were considered.
In order to attain this object a continual agitation was kept up at Johannesburg, so that English shareholders living far away should be prepared for the day when the Annexation would take place on Constitutional lines.
The argument which was calculated to impress these European shareholders was that the administration of the South African Republic had created a situation which was most prejudicial to the financial interests of the mining industry. Viewed from this standpoint the Uitlander grievances were an inexhaustibly rich and payable mine.
The industrial Commission.
This agitation first of all emanated directly from the Capitalists, and had assumed such proportions in 1897 that the Government decided to appoint a Commission of officials and mining magnates in order to enquire searchingly into the alleged financial grievances. As far as the Government was concerned, the chief findings of the Commission were:—
(1). That the price of dynamite (85 shillings per case of 50lbs.) was too high under the existing concession, and that a diminution in price was desirable either by cancellation of the concession, or by testing the legality of the concession in the High Court.
(2). That the tariffs of the Netherlands Railway Company for the carriage of coal and other articles were too high, and that it was necessary to expropriate the railway.
(3). That the import duties on necessaries of life were too high, and that the cost of living in Johannesburg for workmen was too high.
(4). That stringent measures ought to be adopted in order to prevent gold thefts, and that the law for the total prohibition of drink to native labourers ought to be more strictly enforced, and that there ought to be a more stringent application of the Pass Law (under which the traffic of the native labourers was regulated).
(5). With the object of carrying out the measures specified in Section 4, the Commission recommended that an Advisory Board should be nominated for the Witwatersrand gold fields for the purpose of advising the Government as to the enforcement of the said regulations.
Results of the Commission.
To what extent was effect given to these recommendations?
Dynamite.1. As far as dynamite is concerned, it appeared that there was no chance of contesting the concession in the law courts with any success. Nor did the Volksraad or the Government feel justified in cancelling, without the consent of the owners, a contract which had been solemnly entered into, and upon which enormous sums of money had been expended. The Mining Industry was naturally eager for cancellation, even without adequate compensation; but the public were not at that time aware of a fact which was made public some months later, namely, that the De Beers Corporation intended to erect a dynamite manufactory, and that this agitation of the Capitalists was intended to obtain for themselves the control of this great source of income. People, however, knew that the Messrs. Chamberlain were interested in the English ammunition and dynamite house of Kynoch, but they hesitate to assume that the Colonial Secretary was actuated in his Transvaal policy by considerations of private financial interest.
The Government and Volksraad of the South African Republic adopted the wiser plan of lowering the price of dynamite to such an extent as to make it about equal to the local European price plus a protective tariff of 20s. per case.
It may here be remarked that Mr. Chamberlain, knowing how unpopular the Dynamite Concession was in the South African Republic, intimated to the Government of the South African Republic, in a very threatening manner, that the Concession was in conflict with the London Convention.
The answer of the Government to this communication was so crushing that Mr. Chamberlain did not again return to the subject. In this he was, no doubt, also actuated by the fact that the most renowned English and European jurists had advised that the concession was in no sense a breach of the Convention. This, however, only became known later, and it is merely referred to now so as to show that no stone was left unturned in order to find a means of humiliating the South African Republic.
The Netherlands Railway Company.
2. With regard to the Netherlands South African Railway Company, it would appear that the Capitalists have altered their opinion, and now think that the administration of the Company is as good as can reasonably be expected, and that expropriation is now unnecessary. Perhaps, from their point of view, it would be better to buy up the shares of the Company, and thus become themselves masters, instead of the Government, of this source of income.
Respecting the Railway tariff, it is fair to assume that the cause of dissatisfaction has disappeared, for no complaints are now heard since the tariff was lowered in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission.
Reduction of import duties
This change in the tariff, together with the abolition of duties on nearly all necessaries of life have made a difference of about £700,000 in the income of the State during the last year. It will be admitted that this is an enormous item in comparison with the total income of the South African Republic. The above tends to show how anxious the Government of the South African Republic has been to remove all grievances as soon as it was proved that they actually existed.
Liquor, Pass, and Gold Thefts Laws.
3. As regards the administration of the Liquor Law, the Pass Law, and the Law dealing with Gold thefts, neither the Government nor the Volksraad felt at liberty to adopt the recommendation as to constituting an Advisory Board on the Witwatersrand. They decided to go deeper to the roots of the evil, and so altered the administration of the Laws that the evidences of dissatisfaction have disappeared. Indeed, no one ever hears of gold thefts now, and the representative bodies of the mining industry have repeatedly expressed their satisfaction with the administration of the Pass Law, and especially with that of the Liquor Law.
The Liquor Law.
In this very Liquor Law we have a test of a good administration. From the very nature of the drink question it is one of the most difficult laws that a Government can be called upon to administer, and the measure of success which has attended the efforts of the Government and its officials proves conclusively that the charges of incompetency so frequently brought against the Government of the South African Republic were devoid of truth, and were only intended to slander and to injure the Republic. A combined meeting of the Chamber of Mines, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Association of Mine Managers—the three strongest and most representative bodies on the Witwatersrand Gold Fields—passed the following resolutions,(40) which speak for themselves:—
1. This combined Meeting, representing the Chamber of Mines, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Mine Managers' Association, desires to express once more its decided approval of the present Liquor Law, and is of opinion that prohibition is not only beneficial to the Natives in their own interest, but is absolutely necessary for the Mining Industry, with a view of maintaining the efficiency of labour.
2. This Meeting wishes to express its appreciation of the efforts made to suppress the Illicit Liquor Trade by the Detective Department of this Republic since it has been placed under the administration of the State Attorney, and is of opinion that the success which has crowned these efforts fully disproves the contention that the Liquor Law is impracticable.
The first resolution was carried by an overwhelming majority, and the second unanimously.
Compare this declaration of the representatives of the Mining and Commercial interests of the Witwatersrand with the allegation repeated by Mr. Chamberlain in his great "grievance" dispatch of the 10th May, 1899(41)—that the Liquor Law had never been strictly enforced, but that this law was simply evaded, and that the Natives at the mines were supplied with drink in large quantities.
When Mr. Chamberlain wrote these words they were absolutely untrue, and, like all his grievances, are of an imaginary character.
The results have clearly shown that the Government was quite correct in its conclusion that it was better to alter the administration of the laws complained of, than to adopt a principle (the advisory board), the consequences and eventual outcome of which no one was able to foresee.
The South African League.
The agitation in connection with the report of the Industrial Commission was followed by a great calm. If it had not been that the handling of the Swazie difficulty by the British Government gave colour to suspicion, one might have thought that there was no cloud upon the horizon. To a superficial observer, the two Governments seemed to be on the best and most friendly footing, and some of us actually began to think that the era of the fraternal co-operation of the two races in South Africa had actually dawned, and that the cursed Raid and its harvest of race hatred and division would be forgotten. Certain circumstances, however, indicated clearly that the enemy was occupied in a supreme effort to cause matters to culminate in a crisis.
The South African League, a political organisation which sprang up out of, and owed its origin to, the race hatred which the Jameson Raid had called into being, and at the head of which Mr. Rhodes himself stands (a fact which places Capitalistic influence in a very clear light), began towards the latter part of last year to agitate against the Government in the most unheard-of way.
The individuals who stood at the head of this institution in Johannesburg were such that very little attention was paid to the League. It was, however, soon clearly shown that not only was the movement strongly assisted by the Capitalists, and strongly supported all along the mines, but that there was a close relationship in a mysterious way with Cape Town and London. The events of the last few months have brought this out very clearly. Meetings were arranged, memorials to Her Majesty about grievances were drawn up, and an active propaganda was preached in the Press; this all proved in a convincing way that a carefully planned campaign had been organised against the Republic.
As the Government of the South African Republic has set forth the trend of the agitation as well as the connection of the British Government with it in an official despatch, it is desirable to quote the language itself:—(42)
"But this Government wishes to go further. Even in regard to those Uitlanders who are British subjects it is a small minority which, under the pretext of imaginary grievances, promotes a secret propaganda of race hatred, and uses the Republic as a basis for fomenting a revolutionary movement against this Government. Ministers of Her Majesty have so trenchantly expressed the truth about this minority that this Government wishes to quote the very words of these Ministers, with the object of bringing the actual truth to the knowledge of Her Majesty's Government, as well as to that of the whole world, and not for the purpose of making groundless accusations."
"The following words are those of the Ministers of the Cape Colony, who are well acquainted with local conditions, and fully qualified to arrive at a conclusion":—
"In the opinion of Ministers the persistent action, both beyond and within this Colony, of the political body styling itself the South African League in endeavouring to foment and excite, not to smooth and allay ill-will between the two principal European races inhabiting South Africa, is well illustrated by these resolutions, the exaggerated and aggravated terms of which disclose the spirit which informs and inspires them."
"His Excellency's Ministers are one in their earnest desire to do all in their power to aid and further a policy of peaceful progress throughout South Africa, and they cannot but regard it as an unwise propagandism, hostile to the true interests of the Empire, including this Colony as an integral part, that every possible occasion should be seized by the League and its promoters for an attempt to magnify into greater events minor incidents, when occurring in the South African Republic, with a prospect thereby of making racial antagonism more acute, or of rendering less smooth the relations between Her Majesty's Government or the Government of this Colony and that Republic."
"Race hatred is, however, not so intense in South Africa as to enable a body with this propaganda, aiming at revolutionary objects, to obtain much influence in this part of the world; and one continually asks oneself the question—'How is it that a body, so insignificant both in regard to its principles and its membership, enjoys such a large measure of influence?' The answer is that this body depends upon the protection and the support of Her Majesty's Government in England, and that both its members and its organs in the Press openly boast of the influence they exert over the policy of Her Majesty's Government. This Government would ignore such assertions; but when it finds that the ideas and the shibboleths of the South African League are continually echoed in the speeches of members of Her Majesty's Government, when it finds that blue books are compiled chiefly from documents prepared by officials of the South African League, as well as from reports and leading articles containing 'malignant lies' taken from the press organs of that organisation, thereby receiving an official character, then this Government can well understand why so many of Her Majesty's right-minded subjects in this part of the world have obtained the impression that the policy advocated by the South African League is supported by Her Majesty's Government, and is thus calculated to contribute to the welfare and blessing of the British Empire."
"If this mistaken impression could be removed, and if it could be announced as a fact that the South African League, as far as its actions in the South African Republic are concerned, is only an organisation having as its object the fomentation of strife and disorder and the destruction of the independence of the Country, then it would very soon lose its influence, and the strained relations existing between the two Governments would quickly disappear. The Africander population of this country would not then be under the apprehension that the interests of the British Empire imperatively demand that the Republic should be done away with, and its people be either enslaved or exterminated. Both sections of the white inhabitants of South Africa would then return to the fraternal co-operation and fusion which was beginning to manifest itself when the treacherous conspiracy at the end of 1895 awakened the passions on both sides."
(40) 17th August, 1899.
(41) Dispatch, 10th May, 1899. No. 83, C. 9345.
(42) Dispatch of the Transvaal Government, 26th September, 1899. Appendix C.