‘Backward, racist, aggressive’

A rather entertaining chap popped up on my blog recently, his feathers all puffed up as he indignantly told me that he ‘took issue’ with me for daring to describe Kruger, his government and its supporters as (in his words) ‘backward, racist and aggressive’. Given that he, it, and they blatantly and demonstrably were all of those things, it would seem this fellow thinks history should only be written about in such a way so as to not upset the sensibilities of modern-day extremists and / or snowflakes.

But rather than kow-tow this trendily nonsensical ‘cancelling’ of historical reality, and instead of taking my word for it, let’s just take each charge in turn, and see how men who lived through the period described Kruger’s regime and ambitions.


‘I would rather be a policeman under a strong government than a president of such a state. It is you—you members of the raad and the Boers—who have ruined the country, who have sold your independence for a drink. You have ill-treated the natives, you have shot them down, you have sold them into slavery, and now you have to pay the penalty.’[1]
– President Burgers of the ZAR apportions the blame for the 1877 annexation

‘The President really believes, and has always believed, that the Boers are the chosen people of the Old Testament, to whom the people of Ham should be servants, and that they are promised the annexing of the Promised Land.’[2]
– Michael Farrelly, one-time legal counsel to the ZAR government, comments on Kruger’s outlook

‘[Kruger] made the burghers believe that he was a prophet who, like Moses, was the means of communication between God and his chosen people. This is literally true. In the earlier days, he often vanished for long periods, and [when] he came back, he made the people believe that he had been communicating with God. It was absolutely believed by the burghers that Kruger, who was in Heidelberg at the time—100 miles from the scene—knew the result of the battle of Majuba on the very morning on which it was fought!’[3]
– Paul Botha, an OFS volksraad member, remarks on the ZAR and their President

‘…to say that the social tendencies of Boerdom are 100 years behind the march of progress would be an insult to the culture of the 18th century. Their votaries are relics of the dogma-crazed Middle Ages, uncompromising disciples of the bigots who exiled Hugo Grotius and blighted the career of the patriot Barneveldt, of the obscurantists whose opposition to every national reform forced Holland from her proud position in the forefront of cosmopolitan enterprise.’[4]
– Dutch journalist, Thomas C. Hutten, described Kruger’s Transvaal

‘They would, perhaps, have done better to settle nearer to the centre of the continent, at the sources of the Congo, or in the Mountains of the Moon. A colony of mental mummies might hold its own in a region of absolute darkness, but could not hope to prosper beside communities basking in the sunlight of civilization… the Transvaal ‘Republic’ is administered in the interests of a conservative clique of about three dozen families. ‘He heaps up pensions and preferments on his relatives in a way that would put Tammany Hall to shame,’ writes Mr T. A. McKenzie in his recently published pamphlet on President Kruger.’[5]
– Thomas C. Hutten describes Kruger’s supporters

‘A Junta, more narrow-minded, more intolerant, more obstinate than the State Council of medieval Venice, restrains their progressive tendencies, and reduces their suffrage to the formality of ratifying a prearranged programme. Parish bigots complete that system of feudalism. Rationalists exist, but a liquor dealer advertising his stimulants on the temple walls of Mecca would not provoke more immediate ruin than a philosopher expounding the principles of liberalism in a Transvaal country town. An aggressive boycott would be organized in less than 48 hours. The dissenter’s neighbours would be warned to cut his acquaintance. Gangs of superstition-crazed Yahoos would howl under his windows after dark. Good wives, at his approach, would snatch up their youngsters and slam the door in his face. A ceaseless cackle of vituperation and slander would dodge his steps from house to house, from camp to camp.’[6]
– Hutten is scathing of the fanatics who formed the Transvaal’s ‘ruling caste’ in the 1890s

‘Everybody knew that locusts were a punishment from the hand of God. They had been away from our country for a long time, and there were reasons for their return. If members read their Bibles, they would know this.’[7]
– Members of the ZAR Volksraad debate a swarm of locusts

‘During the war a curious thing happened in Norway. There, as in Germany, everyone took it for granted that the right side was the anti-English side. Suddenly Ibsen asked in his grim manner, ‘Are we really on the side of Kruger and his Old Testament?’… I saw that Kruger meant the 17th century and the Scottish 17th century at that; and so to my great embarrassment I found myself on the side of the mob.’[8]
– Irish socialist, George Bernard Shaw, comments on the bizarre, knee-jerk sympathies of the time


‘One thing the quarrelsome Transvaalers were able to agree upon was a line in their 1860 constitution which confirmed, ‘The people are not prepared to allow any equality of the non-white with the white inhabitants, either in church or state’.’[9]

‘The English prided themselves on protecting the imaginary rights of the natives… The Boers are not sentimentalists, but are eminently practical. They recognized that these Hottentots and Basutos were an inferior race.’[10]
– Dr Abraham Kuyper, Dutch journalist, politician, and outspoken Neo-Calvinist

‘I write to you, Sir Henry, in order that your queen may preserve for me my country, it being in her hands. The Boers are coming into it, and I do not like them. Their actions are cruel among us black people. We are like money, they sell us and our children. I ask Her Majesty to defend me, as she defends all her people. There are three things which distress me very much: war, selling people, and drink. All these things I shall find in the Boers, and it is these things which destroy people to make an end of them in the country. The custom of the Boers has always been to cause people to be sold, and to-day they are still selling people.’[11]
– King Khama, Chief of the Bamangwato people, pleaded for Imperial protection

‘They outnumbered the Boers by 25 to one, taking their numbers at a million and those of the Boers at 40,000, a fair estimate, I believe … as the lash and the bullet have been the lot of the wretched Transvaal K****r in the past, so they will be his lot in the future … after leading those hundreds of thousands of men and women to believe that they were once and for ever the subjects of Her Majesty, safe from all violence, cruelty, and oppression, we have handed them over without a word of warning to the tender mercies of one, where natives are concerned, of the cruellest white races in the world.’[12]
– Henry Rider Haggard speaks out on behalf the Transvaal’s majority

‘for the most part there was the silence of despair. One gentle old man, Mokhatle, a man of great influence, used the language of resignation, ‘When I was a child, the Matabele came, they swept over us like the wind and we bowed before them like the long white grass on the plains. They left us and we stood upright again. The Boers came and we bowed ourselves under them in like manner. The British came and we rose upright, our hearts lived within us and we said: Now we are the children of the Great Lady. And now that is past and we must lie flat again under the wind—who knows what are the ways of God?’’[13]
– Rev John Moffat recalls the reaction of black Transvaalers to being under Boer rule again

‘The standing of the K****r in the Transvaal is worth notice. While in the English colony they enjoy equal rights with white men, and even have a vote, in the Transvaal their standing is very different. The K****r must not walk on the pavement, he must salute every white man, and must not leave his house after 9pm … every Boer has the tacitly recognized right to punish his blacks. He never does it in passion. When the K****r does anything, he is told to appear the next day at a certain hour. He is then tied to the wagon, the braces are dampened, and he gets the necessary number of lashes.’[14]
– Count Sternberg recalls his visit to Kruger’s Transvaal


‘The Transvaal rising was not dictated, as was believed in England, by a love of freedom and preference for a republic rather than a limited monarchy. It was inspired by men who were planning a policy which would banish the English language and English influence from South Africa. Their action was a blow directly dealt against freedom, progress, and union of Europeans in South Africa’.
– Reverend John Mackenzie, writing about the war of 1881[15]

‘This war [the Zulu War of 1879] was forced on me and the Zulus. We never desired to fight the English. The Boers were the real cause of that war. They were continually worrying the Zulus about their land and threatening to invade the country if we did not give them land, and this forced us to get our forces ready to resist, and consequently the land became disturbed, and the Natal people mistakenly believed we were preparing against them.’[16]
– King Cetawayo of the Zulu

‘So long as there were native cattle to be stolen and native lands worth appropriating, the absorbing process would be repeated. Tribe after tribe would be pushed back and back upon other tribes, or would perish in the process, until an inhabitable desert, or the sea, were reached as the ultimate boundary of the state’.
– Sir Hercules Robinson, writing about the Transvaal’s expansion into Bechuanaland[17]

‘The policy of the Transvaal was to push out bands of freebooters, and to get them in quarrels with the natives. They wished to push their border over the land westwards, and realize the dream of President Pretorius, which was that the Transvaal should stretch from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic. The result was robbery, rapine, and murder’.
– Arch-liberal John X. Merriman, writing in 1885[18]

‘…the Boers were quite unable to properly control, utilize, and administer their own immense territory, but ‘land hunger’ is theirs as a birth curse. The individual cannot bear to see the smoke of his neighbour’s chimney; he will not cultivate 50 acres, but wants 50,000; the ‘nation’ wants Africa—no less. They coveted Swaziland, Zululand, Bechuanaland, Matabeleland, Mashonaland, and Tongaland, and set to work by devious methods to establish claims to these countries’.
– Percy Fitzpatrick, writing in 1900

‘The word Boer signifies ‘peasant’, but it would be a mistake to compare Boers with French peasants, English farmers, or even the settlers of America. They are rather a conquering race, who established themselves among the Hottentots and Basutos in the same manner that the Normans, in the XI Century, established themselves among the Anglo-Saxons. Abstaining from all manual labour, they devote themselves to their properties, sometimes as much as 5,000 to 6,000 acres in extent, and to the breeding of cattle and horses. Beyond this, their object in life is hunting lion and big game. The Boer is essentially a man of war and politics.’[19]
– Dr Abraham Kuyper, Dutch journalist, politician, and outspoken Neo-Calvinist

‘The Boers represent that form of warlike and political civilization in which production is indirect, and obtained by utilizing the labour of others. It is a type of that ancient pillaging civilization which we call war-like when its methods have been reduced to rules. In this stage, politics mean the organization of pillage. Mr Kuyper is right. ‘The Boer is essentially a man of war and politics.’ He has employed his talents at the expense of the Hottentots and K****s.’[20]
– M. Yves Guyot, award winning French economist

‘…without the least provocation on our side, though the Boers have from time to time murdered some of my people and enslaved several Balala villages, the Transvaal Republic deprives us, by said proclamation, of our land and our liberty, against which we would protest in the strongest terms, and entreat your Excellency, as Her Britannic Majesty’s High Commissioner, to protect us.’[21]
– Montsioa Toane, Chief of the Barolong, appeals for British protection

‘Those fathers of yours, the English, act very slowly; and if you look to them for help, and refuse to sign this paper, we shall have scattered you and your people, and taken possession of your land before they arrive. Why do you refuse to sign the paper? You know we defeated the English at Majuba.’[22]
– Joubert warns Mbandini, the paramount Swazi chief, not to resist annexation by the ZAR

‘This successful anti-British policy of Kruger created a number of imitators—Steyn, Fischer, Esselen, Smuts, and numerous other young educated Afrikanders of the Transvaal, Orange Free State, and the Cape Colony, who, misled by his successes, ambitiously hoped by the same means to raise themselves to the same pinnacle … Krugerism under them developed into a reign of terror. If you were anti-Kruger, you were stigmatized as ‘Engelschgezind’ [lit. English sympathizing] and a traitor to your people, unworthy of a hearing. I have suffered bitterly from this taunt, especially under Steyn’s regime. The more hostile you were to England, the greater patriot you were accounted … This gang, which I wish to be clearly understood, was spread over the whole of South Africa, the Transvaal, the Orange Free State, and the Cape Colony, used the Bond, the press, and the pulpit to further its schemes.’[23]
– Paul Botha describes how Krugerism was a bitterly anti-British ‘reign of terror’


So, on the one hand, we have these examples of first-hand accounts from a wide-spectrum of people who actually witnessed / lived through / suffered due to the truly ghastly regime which was running the ZAR at the end of the 19th Century… and on the other, we have the Apartheid-regime propaganda, which cunningly reinvented Kruger’s Transvaal as some sort of peaceful, benign, utopian Garden of Eden… and, even more ludicrously, painted it as very much the innocent victim of the piece.
It is deeply embarrassing that there are so many today who are still desperate to cling to such far-fetched fantasies – and all the quotes I have provided (and any others I do) will, of course, simply be unthinkingly dismissed as ‘jingo propaganda’ by today’s True Believers… despite most of the quotes coming from Frenchmen, Irishmen, Austrians, African Kings and Chiefs, Hollanders, Liberals, Socialists, Missionaries and, indeed, Afrikaners.  
The resolute determination of some to ignore all historical reality, and instead continue to frantically cling to a comfort blanket of the National Party’s self-pitying myths, would seem to be indicative of rather deeper psychological issues. One is left to wonder what, if anything, would ever be enough to ever actually make them stop and think.


[1] Fisher, p. 52

[2] Farrelly, p. 64

[3] Botha, p. 18

[4] North American Review, Vol.170, Number 520, March 1900, p. 328

[5] North American Review, Vol.170, Number 520, March 1900, p. 329

[6] North American Review, Vol.170, Number 520, March 1900, p. 329

[7] Botha, p. 14

[8] Le May, British Supremacy in South Africa, 1899–1902, p. 29

[9] Thompson, A History of South Africa, p. 102

[10] Guyot, Boer Politics, p. 21

[11] Haggard, p. 19

[12] Creswicke, Vol. I, p. 103

[13] Mason, The Birth of a Dilemma: The Conquest and Settlement of Rhodesia, p. 110

[14] Sternberg &Henderson, My Experiences of the Boer War, p. 78

[15] Fitzpatrick, The Transvaal from Within, p. xiii

[16] Rethman, Friends and Enemies, p. 44

[17] Fitzpatrick, The Transvaal from Within, p. xiv

[18] Cook, Rights and Wrongs of the Transvaal War, p. 25

[19] Guyot, Boer Politics, p. 23

[20] Guyot, Boer Politics, p. 25

[21] Carter, A Narrative of the Boer War, p. 23

[22] Haggard, p. 96

[23] Botha, p. 23


  • Chris Posted March 3, 2021 10:17 am

    Seeing as we are into quotes here is one for you
    Which you most likely will NOT enjoy
    Your detractors — mostly Afrikaans have no real knowledge of the larger British World or World history for that matter.
    You ( I gather do not read Afrikaans books ? )
    It would appear that this is how animosity and wars start ( Max Hastings )

    Anyway the quote

    Major General John Frederick Charles [Boney] Fuller

    About his first action, in the Boer War, Fuller observed: “We knew nothing about war, about South Africa, about our eventual enemy, about anything at all which mattered and upon which our lives might depend. Nine officers out of 10—I might say 99 out of every 100—knew no more of military affairs than the man on the moon and do not intend or want to know more.

    • Bulldog Posted March 3, 2021 1:41 pm

      An interesting man who was later a member of the British Union of Fascists. Not really sure if one can therefore hold his outlook up as typical.

  • Chris Posted March 3, 2021 10:18 am

    Fuller was so contemptuous of his fellow officers that, he wrote his mother, he even loathed playing cards with them during the voyage to South Africa. “That biped is a great deal too uninteresting for me,” he sniffed, adding, “The army…needs primitive men who enjoy the heirlooms of prehistoric times such as hunting, shooting, etc.”

    Fuller saw his first real fighting in the Transvaal. He wrote his mother about a friendly fire incident in which a native trooper was wounded in the forehead. Fuller fed the man whiskey while trying to stuff his brains back in with the handle of a mess kit fork. His words reveal his lifelong racism: “Any ordinary civilized individual would have fallen down dead at once, but I suppose these semi-savages use their brain so little that it doesn’t matter much if they lose a part of it.”

  • Chris Posted March 3, 2021 10:18 am

    The best months of Fuller’s Boer War came when he was put in charge of 70 black scouts and given a 4,000-square-mile area of only partially pacified countryside to patrol. His recon platoon engaged in casual firefights, took and interrogated prisoners, raided, scouted for regular army units and generally operated independently. It was dangerous work, for the Boers particularly hated Brits who led the despised “kaffirs,” and captured officers could expect to die in unpleasant ways.

    The experience was for Fuller an on-the-job tactical education. It taught him about field operations—particularly frontal and flank attacks and whether to envelop or penetrate an opposing force—in a way Sandhurst never could. His South African foray instilled in Fuller two ideas that would become cornerstones of his tactical thinking: 1) mobility is all-important, and 2) a rapid, deep, penetrating attack is far more effective than the traditional slow-paced, beat-your-head-against-a-wall frontal assault.


  • Johan Posted March 20, 2022 4:52 pm

    As I said in some the other comments I made in that thread I don’t deny that Kruger and most Boers were racist, I took issue with the fact that you portrayed the Anglo-Boer war as struggle of good guys vs bad guys. The British are portrayed in the best possible light while the Boers are portayed in the worst possible light.

    • Bulldog Posted March 22, 2022 7:38 am

      Given that the Boers started the war, attacking and invading British territory, looting and burning towns, then it is perfectly reasonable to state that they are the bad guys. You don’t seem to have any issue with Apartheid-era propaganda which relentlessly (if farcically) portrayed the British army as being comprised exclusively of evil, yet cowardly and incompetent, genocidal child-murderers, and the Boers as noble, gallant, freedom-fighters.

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