Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

who had taken up their abode in the Transvaal while under British rule, quitted the country. The result of the war bad given the Boers all they required or wished for. They had recovered their political independence; they were free to administer their own affairs in accordance with Boer ideas, customs, and prejudices; they were at liberty, notwithstanding the nominal restrictions imposed by the Treaty of Pretoria

, to deal with the Kaffir natives according to their own will and pleasure, and to lead the solitary semi-patriarchal lives on which their hearts were set. Their wants, in the matter of clothes, powder, guns, seed, and spirits, were extremely simple and very limited in amount. The Boers had no objection to the small number of foreigners who came into the Transvaal to start taverns and stores. In the first years which followed the re-establishment of the South African Republic, neither the Government nor the people of the Transvaal displayed any particular hostility to the entry of newcomers from the British possessions. In fact, if the economical conditions of the Transvaal had not undergone a sudden and unforeseen revolution, the probability is that in a few years the relations between Boers and Uitlanders in the Transvaal would have approximated to those existing in the Orange Free State, where the Uitlander population, forming as it does a small minority in numbers, constitutes the trading class in the Republic, and is allowed to live side by side with the Boer farmers, enjoying much the same rights, both legally and politically. In this connexion it is worth recording the fact that within two years of the British evacuation the Volksraad passed of their own free will a law according the rights of burghers to all new settlers of white race after two years' residence. This Act, which was repealed a few years later, had for its avowed object the promotion of foreign immigration into the territories of the Republic.

It was the discovery of gold, the aurum irrepertum et sic melius situm, which convulsed the whole fabric of the Transvaal, as has been the case in many other States, nations, and communities. It would be most unjust to blame Mr. Gladstone and his colleagues for not having foreseen the discovery of the Witwatersrandt reefs. It is also fair to assume on their behalf, that if this discovery had been made before Majuba, they would never have dreamed of surrendering the Transvaal, even if the Boer claim to independence had been ten times as potent as it appeared to be. Financially speaking, this surrender was a colossal blunder, but its authors cannot reasonably be held responsible for the financial results of the blunder. The

[blocks in formation]

peculiar

peculiar geological formation of the Randt mines was so novel in mining experience that their value was not fully appreciated at the outset. Owing to these and other causes, the true magnitude of the Randt gold-fields was not fully realized either in South Africa or in Europe till some seven or eight years ago.

Long before the above date, however, the Boer Government had become alive to the fact that the discovery of gold had introduced a new and disturbing element into all their political calculations. From every part, not only of South Africa, but of the British Empire, miners, traders, and adventurers flocked into the Transvaal. Johannesburg developed by leaps and bounds' from a hamlet into a city. Even the experience of the Western States of America affords no parallel to the sudden growth of the commercial capital of the Transvaal, situated as it was in the midst of the barren Veldt, without any communication by railroad nearer than some 200 to 300 miles, and without any available means of transport by water. All the materials employed in building, all the machinery required for the mines, all the goods and produce needed by the inhabitants, had to be transported by ox-waggon over bare tracks cut across the Veldt. The hardships the early immigrants had to endure were very great. By their own energy, by their own toil, and at their own cost, they called into existence a great mining city in the midst of a desolate land, which at the time it would hardly have been an exaggeration to describe as a wilderness. Alone they did it; and the consciousness of their having achieved this result is one of the main factors in the controversy between the Boers and the Uitlanders.

The vast majority of these Uitlander immigrants were British subjects, whether born in South Africa, in the Colonies, or in the United Kingdom. It is not matter for surprise that the Boers should have regarded this sudden influx of British settlers with suspicion and alarm. The generation of Boers who had fought and defeated British armies were still not only alive but in the prime of life. We can hardly blame the Boers if they imagined that the overthrow of their hardly-won independence was not only the inevitable outcome, but the real object of this sudden inroad of British adventurers. A more quickminded and energetic race would probably have made an effort to stem the tide of foreign immigration, before it had assumed formidable proportions. As it was, the Boers only realized the necessity for action when the time had passed for its successful enforcement. They waited with the stolid stupidity begotten of ignorance for the stream to flow by, till the rivulet had become a river. Even the more intelligent Boers, such as

President

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

Preşitlent Krüger, imagined for a long time that the Randt mines would, in mining phrase, 'turn out a frost,' and held, with considerable show of reason, that as soon as the goldbearing ore gave out the British seekers after gold would disappear as rapidly as they had arrived. Upon this hypothesis it was obviously the interest of the Boers to take no immediate steps to stop the craze for gold-mining. At this period the Transvaal treasury was in deplorable straits. It was obvious even to Boer intelligence, that the licences, taxes, and duties to be levied on the mining industries would supply, for a time at any rate, the requirements of the public service, while the President and the more astute of his fellow-countrymen perceived that this influx of Uitlanders, even if it only proved short-lived, must put money indirectly, if not directly, into their own pockets. Thus, during the early years following the gold discovery, the Boers stayed their hands and did not interfere to any serious extent with the development of the mining industry. The Uitlanders are in the habit of asserting, as one of their many grievances, that they saved the Transvaal Government from bankruptcy, and that it was only after their exertions had rendered the Republic not only solvent but wealthy, that they became the objects of deliberate hostility on the part of the Boers. The assertion is absolutely and indisputably true. But there are certain considerations of a contrary kind which fairly should be taken into account.

The State Treasury was indeed replenished by the unexpected revenues which accrued to it from the imposts placed upon the mining community. The leading men of the Republic reaped the full benefit of the sudden shower of gold which descended upon the Transvaal, and became rich, according to a Boer standard, beyond the dreams of avarice.' The spoiling of the Egyptians was regarded as a meritorious operation by the children of Israel, and from a Boer point of view the Uitlanders represented the Egyptians. But whatever profits were made by the State and by its administrators, we should doubt whether the bulk of the Boer population derived any great pecuniary benefit from the gold discoveries

. The Transvaal Boers were, and are, far too thrifty, too timid, and too ignorant to invest their money in mining speculations. They were, and are, too unenterprising, too indolent, and too proud to avail themselves of the sudden demand for the products of the soil, occasioned by the Uitlander immigration. It may be said that the Boers, as many thousands of English shareholders know to their cost, were enabled during the boom, when the Transvaal was regarded as a sort of Tom Tiddler's

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

ther ! lands, the hi discon relatio Again to int ambiti cultivi to ali

the ba

due,

ground,

ground, to sell their so-called farms at prices out of all proportion to their productive value. But in the vast majority of these sales the sum actually received by the Boer landowners was small compared to that at which the lands thus bought were transferred by Uitlander promoters to the British public. Moreover the profits which the Boers made on the sale of lands were counterbalanced by charges which were, not unnaturally, distasteful to the Dutch citizens of the Republic. No Boer cultivates his own land by his own labour. What cultivation there is, is carried on by Kaffir labour under Boer supervision. In the days before the gold discoveries, the actual money price of native labour in the Transvaal was almost nominal. The Boer farmer used to allow a certain number of Kaffir families to squat, rent free, on his land in the neighbourhood of his homestead. For this privilege the Kaffirs were required to work in the fields and to make themselves generally useful at all times to their master. When actually at work, the Kaffirs received a money wage, which varied according to the locality, from a few pence to a shilling a week, paid irregularly. Besides this, they had from time to time presents of mealies, of stock, or of old clothes, as might happen to suit their employer's convenience.

With the discovery of the gold mines, the whole labour market of the Transvaal was revolutionised. The necessity for native labour in the mines was so urgent, the competition was so keen, that the price offered for unskilled native labour at the mines rose to 258., 30s., and even 40s. a week. The wages, too, were paid in hard coin and with unfailing punctuality. The result of this change of affairs was that the Boer farmers found it increasingly difficult to obtain labour at the old rates, and were compelled either to pay fair wages to the Kaffirs out of their own pockets, or even- thing which they loathed still more—to work themselves upon their own lands. They complained also, and with some reason, that the high prices paid by the Uitlanders rendered the Kaffirs discontented and insolent, and destroyed the old patriarchal relations existing between them and their white masters. Again, the sudden incursion of Uitlanders tended inevitably to interfere with the normal conditions of Boer life. The ambition of every Boer is to own enormous tracts of uncultivated land, surrounding a dwelling from which, according to a local saying, “the smoke of no other house can be seen or the bark of no strange dog heard.' This passion for solitude is due, not only to the natural character of the Boer, but to the peculiar requirements of his material existence. In the Vol. 184. -No. 368.

absence

[ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

absence of any regular system of land-culture, the flocks and herds, in whose possession the Boer delights, and which constitute his wealth, can only be kept in good condition by moving from place to place as the needs of pasture may demand. In short, wholesale grazing on the Veldt is impossible without the command of huge tracts of open land. In like fashion, hunting and shooting, the sole amusements of the Boer, are inconsistent with any attempt to farm the Veldt, in fact as well as in name. It is therefore hardly necessary to point out that the extraordinary influx of Uitlander settlers

, and the wholesale purchases of Transvaal farms, interfered with the conditions under which, according to Boer ideas, life in the Transvaal is alone possible. Hence this influx caused a vast amount of alarm amongst the Boer farmers.

The overflow of the Transvaal by foreign immigrants, nineteen-twentieths of whom were men of British race, was indeed in itself unwelcome to the Boers. The material advantages arising from the influx of newcomers were of little account in Boer eyes compared with the annoyances and expenses which this immigration was felt instinctively to involve. “The dislike of the Boers to the incoming of any large body of Uitlanders would have been the same if they had been French or Germans. But in the present instance this dislike was intensified by the fact that the Uitlanders in question belonged by birth

, language, and nationality to the race by whom the Boers had been supplanted in the Cape Colony and at Natal, by whom their own independence had only recently been assailed, and by whom their territory was surrounded on every side, and their power of extension cramped and confined within narrow limits. The upshot of the late war had been to destroy Boer belief in the military might of Great Britain. But their belief in the astuteness of British traders still remained unimpaired. Long and bitter experience had taught them that the English, in dealing with the Boer, always somehow got the best of the deal. It was therefore not unnatural, that when the Boers saw the English trooping into their country, building homesteads and cities, and buying land right and left, they should have come to the conclusion that Great Britain intended to retriere by trade the defeat which she had sustained by war. assumption, as we all know, was utterly erroneous; but then to the Boer mind the auri fames, which drives the Anglo-Saron race wherever gold is to be found, is a thing utterly uniu. telligible and incomprehensible.

As we have already remarked, the intensity of the feeling created by the policy of the Imperial Government in our South

African

Boer faires

[ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

The

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »