I was recently sent some photos of an article which appeared in this magazine:
Rather disappointingly, given that it is written by someone who is apparently a Battlefield Guide and really should know better, the article kicked off with some absolute nonsense:
Here is the offending section (aka. the passage he just pulled out of the ether):
In reality, the First Boer War was actually caused by a rebellion by a section of the white minority population of the Transvaal, who – after being saved from annihilation by the completely peaceful British annexation in 1877 – decided that they, as a self-appointed master race, wanted to have another crack at Lording it over the vast majority in the territory.
Likewise, the Second Boer War / Boer War was not ‘driven by the unscrupulous greed of a clique of English industrialist and mine magnates’ – though it has long suited both Communists and members of the AWB to claim it was. In reality, the Boer War was caused by Kruger’s long-standing desire to replace Great Britain as the paramount power in the region, and Britain’s determination that this would not happen. London’s over-riding interest in the region was the Royal Navy base at Simon’s Town, as this controlled the vital sea lanes to the East.
So far, so laughable, but what is most entertaining of all is that this fellow really shouldn’t need me to tell him any of this, as he later gushingly recommends Amery’s Times History as being the ‘best’ book on the Boer War:
This is rather strange, as it is highly doubtful that this fellow has read Amery’s book. For a start, it is actually called ‘The Times History of the War in South Africa’, not ‘History of the Boer War’, so one has to wonder if he has ever even seen a copy, let alone opened one of the volumes. Anyway, if he had taken the trouble to read it, he would perhaps have found the following passages interesting:
The whole of Dutch South Africa was in a ferment of excitement. Volunteers flocked from every part of the Free State and Cape Colony to join the Boers at Laing’s Nek. A general rising of the Dutch population to expel the English from South Africa for good and all was freely discussed. The proclamations of the Triumvirate, written by the Hollander Jorissen, appealed loudly to the Afrikander nation to arise and throw off the hated British yoke. “Freedom shall rise in South Africa like the sun from the morning clouds, as freedom rose in the United States of America. Then shall it be Africa for the Afrikander, from the Zambesi to Simon’s Bay.” These were the closing words of the Boer petition of rights addressed to President Brand on February 7, 1881, and the sentiment contained in them was widely echoed all over South Africa. The moral effect of Majuba, followed by the complete and abject surrender of the British Government, was tremendous. That the Transvaal Boers could not have offered a successful resistance to Sir F. Roberts, and that the general South African rising was merely talk which would never have been translated into action, mattered little. The Dutch felt that they had beaten the English army in the field and terrified England into surrender. There was a tremendous explosion of triumphant nationalist sentiment all over South Africa. Excitable politicians and journalists believed that the end of British rule in South Africa was almost at hand, that only a few years of agitation were required, and that then Great Britain, sooner than face a Transvaal rebellion on an infinitely larger scale, would surrender all South Africa, except perhaps the Cape Peninsula, to the United South African Republic.[i]
“This is now our time to establish the Bond, while a national consciousness has been awakened through the Transvaal war. And the Bond must be our preparation for the future confederation of all the states and colonies of South Africa. The English Government keeps talking of a confederation under the British flag. That will never happen (daar kom niks van nie). We can assure them of that. We have often said it; there is just one hindrance to confederation, and that is the English flag. Let them take that away, and within a year the confederation under the free Afrikander flag would be established.
“But so long as the English flag remains here, the Afrikander Bond must be our confederation. And the British will after a while realise that Fronde’s advice is the best for them; they must just have Simon’s Bay as a naval and military station on the road to India, and give over all the rest of South Africa to the Afrikanders.”[ii]
In 1884 parties of Boers squatted in Northern Zululand and established a Republic called the New Republic, under the presidency of Lukas Meyer. In spite of the protests of Natal and of the Zulus themselves the British Government would probably have let the whole of Zululand be overrun by the Boers but for the rumours of an impending German annexation of St. Lucia Bay. This alarmed the Government, and what was still left of Zululand was promptly annexed. On the Zululand side at any rate the Boers were now cut off from that access to the sea which they had aimed at from the earliest days of the Great Trek. In 1886 the British Government recognised the New Republic, and in 1887 consented to its union with the Transvaal.[iii]
That the Imperial Government would not straightway thereupon recognise the right of the Transvaal to annex Swaziland, and that it refused to allow Umbandine to will away his country to the Boers, was always treated by the Boers as an intolerable grievance, notwithstanding the fact that they had, in 1884, solemnly guaranteed in no way to interfere with the independence of the Swazis.
Even the settlement of 1890, which practically gave the administration of Swaziland into their hands, was resented by them as an outrage upon their liberty to annex any part of South Africa that pleased them.
The troubles with native chiefs in the north of the Transvaal and the desire to keep the trekking instinct of the Boers concentrated Boer schemes on the eastern and south-eastern frontier made Kruger less inclined to encourage expansion to the north, though negotiations with Lobengula were begun as early as 1882. However, in 1887, Kruger sent an envoy to Bulawayo to arrange for the establishment of a Transvaal protectorate over the whole of Matabeleland.[iv]
To Kruger the “Uitianders” were just labourers who had come on to “his land” to dig up for the benefit of himself and of “his people” the new treasure that had been found in it. He no more thought of granting them a voice in the government of the country than he would think of giving the Kaffirs that worked on his farms a share in his property or in the control of his personal expenditure. Not only had they in his eyes no conceivable right to consideration of any kind, but, what was more, they were enemies. Were they not mostly Englishmen, the same class of men as those Lydenburg miners who, in 1876, had been so eager for annexation? That their coming should alter the character or the policy of the state would have seemed to him a monstrous thing. By independence Kruger always understood the political predominance of himself and his faction.[v]
The main objects of Kruger’s policy during the years that followed upon the discovery of the Witwatersrand were to render the Transvaal absolutely independent of all English policy from influences, political, economical and social; to get rid of the last shred of subordinate relationship established by the Conventions; to increase the territories of the Transvaal on every side, more especially down towards the south-eastern coast of Africa; to secure the support of some great European power; and to make the Free State and Cape Colony dependencies of the Transvaal, without an influence on its policy, but bound to give it their support through thick and thin.
The final purpose of all this was to place the Transvaal in the position of the paramount power in South Africa, and to enable it to dictate to the British Government on what terms, and for how long, it should be allowed to retain a footing in that part of the Continent.[vi]
Kruger wished to have the wealth of the Uitlanders at his disposal. But he refused to recognise their right to exercise even the slightest control over the way in which that wealth was spent. He used the taxes drawn from a mainly English population for the furtherance of schemes in which the hatred of all that was English was the one common fundament motive. He considered that the whole Dutch population of South Africa was bound to be completely subservient to his policy. But at the same time, he excluded it from all participation in the enormous material development of the Transvaal, for fear lest, by opening the door to it, he should also let in the taint of English influence. That in the end Kruger should have succeeded, for no return whatsoever, in inducing the Free State to throw in its lot with the Transvaal and sacrifice its independence, and in stirring up the Dutch in Cape Colony to make every effort on his behalf, short of a general rebellion, is a signal manifestation of his political acuteness and his still greater good fortune.[vii]
In 1887 two secret conferences were held between Transvaal and Free State delegations on the subjects which were then of all-engrossing interest to South Africa. At both of them Kruger was present, and nothing could give a clearer conferences insight into his policy or into his attitude towards those from free State. whom he expected such self-sacrificing support than a short account of the proceedings.
The first conference took place in President Kruger’s house in Pretoria on May 31 and the next two days. There were present on the one side President Kruger with his State Secretary and State Attorney, Messrs. Bok and Leyds, and a commission of the Transvaal Volksraad, consisting of Messrs. F. Wolmarans, Klopper, Taljaard, Lombaard, and Spies; and on the other side a deputation from the Free State Volksraad, composed of Messrs. Fraser, Klynveld, and Myburgh.
The Transvaal representatives are very typical. Above them all stands out the President, who practically leads the whole conference—knowing exactly what he wants, indifferent to argument, returning again and again to the same point, however often refuted; incapable of conviction, though ready as a last resort to lower his demands step by step and claim that he has made a great concession—the same Kruger as twelve years later at Bloemfontein, only here not on the defensive against a superior intellect and a will as strong as his own, but active, persuasive, impassioned, speaking among men more capable of submitting to his influence.
At his side is Leyds, the smooth plausible young Hollander from Java—already then high in the President’s esteem—taking no part in the debate, but making his in- fluence discernible in almost every argument. The commission represents Kruger’s stalwarts in the Volksraad, the men chosen for their unquestioning fidelity to the hand that has fed them and kept them in their places, for their narrow religious and political prejudices and for their genuine hatred of England.
The leader of the Free State representatives is Mr. J, G. Fraser. Son of one of those Scotch Presbyterian clergymen who came out to South Africa in the middle of the century to supply the intellectual deficiencies of the Dutch Reformed Church, Mr. Fraser entered the Free State as a young man, and threw in his lot unreservedly with the country of his adoption, rapidly attracting President Brand’s attention and becoming his political right hand man, in which capacity he came on this occasion to Pretoria. After Brand’s death Mr. Fraser resolutely continued the tradition of Brand’s policy, but unfortunately, as year by year the influence of the extreme nationalist party led by Reitz and Borckenhagen, and afterwards by Steyn, prevailed, his own hold grew weaker. In vain Mr. Fraser for years prophesied the inevitable result of following the mischievous policy of the Transvaal. The mass of the burghers, swayed by sentiment and deluded by their belief in England’s weakness, refused to heed his warnings.[viii]
Amery goes on to quote an impassioned outburst by Mr. F, Wolmarans:
“We must look at the matter from the political standpoint of our independence. We have had much experience of her Majesty’s Government, and we will and must shake ourselves free and become independent. We are still dissatisfied. We wish to get to the sea, more especially with an eye to future complications. Let us first get to the sea and achieve our in-dependence. Wait a few years. Why are we to-day worried at Delagoa? English influence! They wish to keep us in bonds and dependence; that is what we struggle against… You know our secret policy. We cannot treat the colony as we would treat you. The colony would destroy us. It is not the Dutch there that we are fighting against. Time shall show what we mean to do with them; for the present we must keep them off.”
These extracts give some idea of the hopes and fears that animated President Kruger and his followers in 1887. They hardly suggest the theory, so common among those whose knowledge of South African affairs begins with New Year’s Day, 1896, that Kruger bore no ill-will to England or the English before the bitter disillusionment of the Jameson Raid.[ix]
As a result of the conference, the Volksraad on June 3, in secret session, passed a resolution authorising the Government to make a secret treaty with the Free State by which each state should bind itself not to build railways to its frontiers without the consent of the other—the eastern and northern frontiers of the Transvaal being excepted. The railway from Pretoria to Bloemfontein was, however, to proceeded with. Neither party was to enter into a Customs Union without consent of the other; the Transvaal was to pay the Free State £20,000 annually as compensation for loss incurred by not having the railway to Cape Colony.
As consideration for all these remarkable favours, the Free State was to bind itself in an offensive and defensive alliance with the Transvaal. Such a treaty, which would simply have enslaved the Free State to the Transvaal, was promptly rejected by the Free State Volksraad.[x]
But Kruger was not to be defeated so easily. In October he came, accompanied by Leyds and another deputation, to meet President Brand at Bloemfontein, and a series of meetings took place between October 6 and October 22.
At the very outset of the first meeting Kruger insists that all the negotiations must keep in view as their aim the “independence” of the South African Republic—it was no use discussing matters from any other standpoint. Kruger had come with the avowed intention not only of discussing railway and similar matters, but also of promoting a closer union between the Republics. Brand accordingly begins by suggesting a treaty of permanent friendship and free trade between the two Republics containing a number of practical and useful provisions. For Kruger, who was only thinking how he could get the rifles of the Free Staters at his disposal, Brand’s sensible proposals were very insufficient, and on the next day—October 7—he replied by asserting that in view of the common enemy and the dangers threatening the Republics, an offensive and defensive alliance was an essential preliminary to any other form of closer union.
Brand replied that, as far as the offensive was concerned, he would never be a party to attacking anybody’s territory, and as for the defensive, where was the pressing danger or the common foe? The Free State was on excellent terms with all its neighbours. Nor would the Transvaal have any need for such an alliance if only its policy remained peaceful and cautious.[xi]
This [the attempted invasion of Rhodesia in 1891] was the last aggressive attempt at expansion on the part of the Transvaal. Kruger was now “shut up in a kraal” to use his own phrase, and his only hope of carrying out his policy lay in increasing his military resources, in strengthening himself by foreign alliances, and in recovering the influence he had lost in the Free State and Cape Colony, till he should be strong enough to reconquer by force from Great Britain the territories of which he considered himself unjustly robbed.[xii]
So there we have it: quoting directly from the book this fellow considers the ‘best’ on the subject (yet which he does not know the actual name of), one can see that Amery makes it clear that Kruger’s Empire building ambitions / hatred of all things British were the driving cause for the war. So quite what inspired this chap to brush Kruger’s blatant aggression under the carpet, and instead dream up his nefarious ‘clique of industrialists and mine magnates’ is anyone’s guess. Still, I suppose blaming everything on capitalists is a slight improvement on John Hobson who, back in the day and no less irrationally, blamed it all on wicked, scheming Jews.[xiii]
[i] Amery, The Times History of the War in South Africa, Vol. 1, p. 80
[ii] Amery, The Times History of the War in South Africa, Vol. 1, p. 82
[iii] Amery, The Times History of the War in South Africa, Vol. 1, p. 86-87
[iv] Amery, The Times History of the War in South Africa, Vol. 1, p. 87
[v] Amery, The Times History of the War in South Africa, Vol. 1, p. 90
[vi] Amery, The Times History of the War in South Africa, Vol. 1, p. 91
[vii] Amery, The Times History of the War in South Africa, Vol. 1, p. 93
[viii] Amery, The Times History of the War in South Africa, Vol. 1, p. 96
[ix] Amery, The Times History of the War in South Africa, Vol. 1, p. 99
[x] Amery, The Times History of the War in South Africa, Vol. 1, p. 99
[xi] Amery, The Times History of the War in South Africa, Vol. 1, p. 99
[xii] Amery, The Times History of the War in South Africa, Vol. 1, p. 106
[xiii] Those interested in Hobson’s ill-considered, Marxist, anti-Semitic bile should read his The War in South Africa, Its Causes and Effects