A CENTURY OF WRONG
I have now reviewed all the facts connected with the history of our oppression and persecution during the past hundred years. The allegations I have made are not invented, but are based upon the statements of the most reliable witnesses, nearly all of them of British nationality; they are facts that have been declared incontestable before the tribunal of history. As far as the more recent occurrences since 1898 are concerned, I may state that I have had personal knowledge of all the negociations and questions at issue above referred to, and I can only declare that I have confined myself to facts; these will stand out in a much clearer light when the curtain is raised and the events of the last two years in this sorely afflicted part of the world are revealed.
In this awful turning point in the history of South Africa, on the eve of the conflict which threatens to exterminate our people, it behoves us to speak the truth in what may be, perchance, our last message to the world. Even if we are exterminated the truth will triumph through us over our conquerors, and will sterilise and paralyse all their efforts until they too disappear in the night of oblivion.
Up to the present our people have remained silent; we have been spat upon by the enemy, slandered, harried, and treated with every possible mark of disdain and contempt. But our people, with a dignity which reminds the world of a greater and more painful example of suffering, have borne in silence the taunts and derision of their opponents; indeed, they elected out of a sense of duty to remedy the faults and abuses which had crept into their public administration during moments of relaxed vigilance. But even this was ascribed to weakness and cowardice. Latterly our people have been represented by influential statesmen and on hundreds of platforms in England as incompetent, uncivilised, dishonourable, untrustworthy, corrupt, bloodthirsty, treacherous, etc., etc., so that not only the British public, but nearly the whole world, began to believe that we stood on the same level as the wild beasts. In the face of these taunts and this provocation our people still remained silent. We were forced to learn from formal blue books issued by Her Majesty's Government and from dispatches of Her Majesty's High Commissioner in South Africa that our unscrupulous State Government, and our unjust, unprincipled, and disorderly administration, was a continual festering sore, which, like a pestilential vapour, defiled the moral and political atmosphere of South Africa. We remained silent. We were accused in innumerable newspapers of all sorts of misdeeds against civilisation and humanity; crimes were imputed to us, the bare narration of which was sufficient to cause the hair to rise with horror. If the reading public believe a hundredth part of the enormities which have been laid at the door of our people and Government, they must be irresistibly forced to the conclusion that this Republic is a den of thieves and a sink of iniquity, a people, in fact, the very existence of which is a blot upon humanity, and a nuisance to mankind. Of the enormous sums which we are alleged to have spent out of the Secret Service Fund in order to purchase the good opinion of the world there has been no practical result or evidence, for the breath of slander went on steadily increasing with the violence of a hurricane. But our people remained silent, partly out of stupidity, partly out of a feeling of despairing helplessness, and partly because, being a pastoral people, they read no newspapers, and were thus unaware of the way in which the feeling of the whole world was being prejudiced against them by the efforts of malignant hate.
The practical effect has been that our case has been lost by default before the tribunal of public opinion. That is why I feel compelled to state the facts which have characterised the attitude of the British towards us during the Nineteenth century. Naboth's title to his vineyard must be cancelled. The easiest way of securing that object, according to the tortuous methods of British diplomacy, was to prove that Naboth was a scoundrel and Ahab an angel. The facts which have marked Ahab's career have been stated. I shall now proceed to draw my conclusions, which I submit must appeal irresistibly to every impartial and right-minded person.
During this century there have been three periods which have been characterised by different attitudes of the British Government towards us. The first began in 1806, and lasted until the middle of the century. During this period the chief feature of British policy was one of utter contempt, and the general trend of British feeling in regard to our unfortunate people can be summarised by the phrase, "The stupid and dirty Dutch." But the hypocritical ingenuity of British policy was perfectly competent to express this contempt in accents which harmonised with the loftiest sentiments then prevailing. The wave of sentimental philanthropy then passing over the civilised world was utilised by the British Government in order to represent the Boers to the world as oppressors of poor peace-loving natives, who were also men and brethren eminently capable of receiving religion and civilisation.
It may seem inexplicable that the Power which stood up boldly at the Treaty of Utrecht as the shameless champion of negro slavery was the very one which was celebrated in South Africa for its morbid love of the natives; the explanation, however, is that it was not so much love for the native that underlay the apparent negrophilistic policy as hatred and contempt of the Boer. As a result of this hatred of the Boer, disguised under the veneer of philanthropy in regard to the aborigines, the natives were employed as police against us; they were provided with arms and ammunition to be used against us; they were incited to fight us, and, wherever it was possible, they murdered and plundered us. In fact, our people were forced to bid farewell to the Cape Colony and all that was near and dear to them, and seek a shelter in the unknown wilderness of the North.
As an ultimate result of this hatred, our people had to pursue their pilgrimage of martyrdom throughout South Africa, until every portion of that unhappy country has been painted red with the blood, not so much of men capable of resistance as with that of our murdered and defenceless women and children.
The second period lasted until the year 1881. The fundamental principle then underlying British policy was no longer one of unqualified hatred. Results had already proved that hatred was powerless to subdue the Africander; it had, on the other hand, contributed largely to the consolidation of Africanderdom and to the fact that they spread over the whole of South Africa, thus forming the predominant nationality almost everywhere. In a moment of disinterestedness or absent-minded dejection England had concluded treaties with the Boers in 1852 and 1854, by which they were guaranteed in the undisturbed possession of certain wild and apparently worthless tracts of territory.
The fundamental sentiment which governed the policy of the second period was a feeling of regret at having made this mistake, coupled with the firm determination to set aside its results. These wild and useless tracts, which had been guaranteed to the Boers, appeared to be very valuable after the Boers had rescued them from barbarism, and opened them up for civilisation. It was felt that they ought to gleam amongst the jewels of Her Majesty's Crown, notwithstanding the obstacle in the treaties that had been concluded with the Boers. This was the concealed intention. As far as the means were concerned—they were, from the very exigency of inborn hypocrisy, partly revealed and partly concealed; the one differing from the other, as light from darkness. The secret means consisted in arming the Kaffir tribes against us in the most incredible manner, and in inciting them to attack us in violation of solemn treaties and promises. If this policy succeeded the real objects and means could be suppressed, and England could then come forward and pose openly as the champion of peace and order, and as the guardian angel of civilisation in this part of the world. The Republics could then be annexed under cover of these plausible pretexts. This policy failed as far as the Orange Free State was concerned, because the brave burghers of the neighbouring Republic succeeded, after great difficulty, in overcoming Moshesh, notwithstanding the fact that their arms and ammunition had been illegally stopped by the British Government. England was compelled in that case to confine itself to the protection of its "Basuto" tools. The British, however, succeeded in preventing the Boers from reaping the legitimate fruits of their victory, and in annexing the Diamond Fields—a flagrantly illegal act.
As far as the South African Republic is concerned, it was unfortunate that the burghers were not vigilant enough to foresee and prevent the crafty policy of the enemy. As the Transvaal Boers had subdued the most powerful Kaffir tribes, they never dreamt that the insignificant Kaffir wars in which they had been involved through English intrigue would have been seized as a pretext to annex their country to the British Crown. They had been remiss in not putting their full force into the field so as to bring these little wars to a speedy conclusion. And so the Magato and Socoecoeni campaigns were conducted in a protracted and half-hearted way, much to the satisfaction of Sir Theophilus Shepstone, and those who were at his back.
The Annexation was brought about. It was announced that the extension of Her Majesty's sway and protection over the South African Republic could alone secure unity of purpose and trade, as well as open out a prospect of peace and prosperity. In these words of Shepstone's proclamation we see in all its repulsive nakedness the hypocrisy which openly masqueraded in the guise of the disinterested and pitiful Samaritan, while its true and secret object was to inflict a fatal wound upon the burgher Republic.
The third period of our history is characterised by the amalgamation of the old and well-known policy of fraud and violence with the new forces of Capitalism, which had developed so powerfully owing to the mineral riches of the South African Republic. Our existence as a people and as a State is now threatened by an unparalleled combination of forces. Arrayed against us we find numerical strength, the public opinion of the United Kingdom thirsting and shouting for blood and revenge, the world-wide and cosmopolitan power of Capitalism, and all the forces which underlie the lust of robbery and the spirit of plunder. Our lot has of late become more and more perilous. The cordon of beasts of plunder and birds of prey has been narrowed and drawn closer and closer around this poor doomed people during the last ten years. As the wounded antelope awaits the coming of the lion, the jackal, and the vulture, so do our poor people all over South Africa contemplate the approach of the foe, encircled as they are by the forces of hatred and revenge, and by the stratagems and covetousness of their enemies. Every sea in the world is being furrowed by the ships which are conveying British troops from every corner of the globe in order to smash this little handful of people. Even Xerxes, with his millions against little Greece, does not afford a stranger spectacle to the wonder and astonishment of mankind than this gentle and kind-hearted Mother of Nations, as, wrapped in all the panoply of her might, riches, and exalted traditions, she approaches the little child grovelling in the dust with a sharpened knife in her hand. This is no War—it is an attempt at Infanticide.
And as the brain of the onlooker reels, and as his thoughts fade away into uneasy slumbers, there arises before him in a dream the distant prospect of Bantu children playing amongst the gardens and ruins of the sunny south around thousands of graves in which the descendants of the European heroes of Faith and Freedom lie sleeping.
For the marauding hordes of the Bantu are once more roving where European dwellings used to stand. And when the question is asked—why all this has happened? Why the heroic children of an heroic race, to which civilisation owes its most priceless blessings, should lie murdered there in that distant quarter of the globe? An invisible spirit of mockery answers, "Civilisation is a failure; the Caucasian is played out!" and the dreamer awakens with the echo of the word "Gold! gold! gold!" in his ears.
The orchids of Birmingham are yellow. The traditions of the greatest people on earth are tarnished and have become yellow.
The laurels which Britannia's legions hope to win in South Africa are sere and yellow.
But the sky which stretches its banner over South Africa remains blue. The justice to which Piet Retief appeals when our fathers said farewell to the Cape Colony, and to which Joachim Prinsloo called aloud in the Volksraad of Natal when it was annexed by England; the justice to which the burghers of the Transvaal entrusted their case at Paarde Kraal in 1880, remains immutable, and is like a rock against which the yeasty billows of British diplomacy dissolve in foam.
It proceeds according to eternal laws, unmoved by human pride and ambition. As the Greek poet of old said, it permits the tyrant, in his boundless self-esteem, to climb higher and higher and to gain greater honour and might until he arrives at the appointed height, and then falls down into the infinite depths.
Africanders, I ask you but to do as Leonidas did with his 300 men when they advanced unflinchingly at Thermopylæ against Xerxes and his myriads, and do not be disturbed by such men as Milner, Rhodes, and Chamberlain, or even by the British Empire itself, but cling fast to the God of our forefathers, and to the Righteousness which is sometimes slow in acting, but which never slumbers nor forgets. Our forefathers did not pale before the terrors of the Spanish Inquisition, but entered upon the great struggle for Freedom and Right against even the mighty Philip, unmindful of the consequences.
Nor could the rack and the persecuting bands of Louis XIV tame or subdue the spirit of our fathers. Neither Alva nor Richelieu were able to compass the triumph of tyranny over the innate sentiment of Freedom and Independence in our forefathers. Nor will a Chamberlain be more fortunate in effecting the triumph of Capitalism, with its lust for power, over us.
If it is ordained that we, insignificant as we are, should be the first among all peoples to begin the struggle against the new-world tyranny of Capitalism, then we are ready to do so, even if that tyranny is reinforced by the power of Jingoism.
May the hope which glowed in our hearts during 1880, and which buoyed us up during that struggle, burn on steadily! May it prove a beacon of light in our path, invincibly moving onwards through blood and through tears, until it leads us to a real Union of South Africa.
As in 1880, we now submit our cause with perfect confidence to the whole world. Whether the result be Victory or Death, Liberty will assuredly rise in South Africa like the sun from out the mists of the morning, just as Freedom dawned over the United States of America a little more than a century ago. Then from the Zambesi to Simon's Bay it will be
"AFRICA FOR THE AFRICANDER."