Facts? Who cares about facts!?

A friend recently sent me a link to an article on YouTube about the Jameson Raid. The most interesting part was to read the truly madcap comments below it, one of which in particular caught my eye:

‘1890 – Can non property owning British men vote in Britain? No … then why are we going to war to force another country to give non property owning British men the vote? They have something we want –  … British Colonial Policy … in a nutshell’

This is such complete and utter bloody tripe on so many levels that it is difficult to know exactly where to begin. As this is the sort of rubbish which gets regurgitated at braais every weekend in South Africa, however, it is well worth taking a few moments to unpack his farcical claims.

Firstly, why ‘1890’? The Jameson Raid happened over the New Year of 1895/96… but then again, historical reality has never mattered much when it comes to the victim-culture enjoyed by so many in South Africa. Remember: the myth must be defended at all costs, and as even some History Professors don’t let troublesome things like ‘facts’ get in the way, can we really expect better from unschooled keyboard warriors?

Secondly, ‘can non-property owning British men vote in Britain? No’
Well, actually, ‘yes’ – at which point the whole thrust of this moronic, self-pitying ‘argument’ rather falls flat. Of course, this chap has probably made this pronouncement a thousand times, basking in glory and adoration as his even more ignorant friends nod in agreement, and never challenged on his ‘sage-like’ declaration.

The reality is that Britain’s 1867 Representation of the People Act (often known as ‘the Second Reform Act’) granted the vote to urban-dwelling working class men. The franchise was extended to cover heads of households and was not dependent on being a property owner – it effectively doubled the size of the electorate. The 1884 Representation of the People Act (‘the Third Reform Act’) went further still, extending the franchise to the working classes in Britain’s rural areas: all adult males paying an annual rental of £10, and all those holding land valued at £10, qualified for the vote, reforms which meant that the British electorate had expanded to over 5,500,000 – compared to just 1,000,000 before the 1867 act.
So, ‘yes’, non-property owning British men did have the vote.

Thirdly, the Jameson Raid was not ‘British Colonial Policy’. Though completely justifiable, it was nevertheless an illegal revolution cooked up by the Johannesburg ‘Uitlanders’ (ie. the mainly English-speaking residents unfairly denied the vote by Kruger’s hopelessly corrupt and incompetent regime) and supported by various other players, the most famous of which being, of course, Cecil Rhodes.
Over a hundred years earlier, the American Colonies had rebelled against British rule under the banner of ‘no taxation without representation’, and the Uitlanders were in a very similar situation in the 1890s. They were paying the lion’s share of the tax in the Transvaal, and were even subject to being conscripted to fight in Kruger’s never ending wars against his black neighours… yet were completely denied even the most basic of political rights. All they desired was the introduction of a fair franchise system in the Transvaal – one similar to that in place in Britain’s Cape Colony (where a very forward-looking, colour-blind franchise was in place) or even one akin to that of the Boer republic of the Orange Free State. Hardly an unreasonable or outlandish request.

And far from the Raid being ‘British Colonial Policy’, police gallopers were sent after Jameson, ordering him to turn back. What is more, once the Raid ended in disaster, Jameson and his lieutenants were tried in a British Court for their actions, and sent to gaol. For his part in the scheme, Cecil Rhodes was forced to resign as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony.

While the Raid (and the simultaneous – though rather half-hearted – uprising by the Johannesburg Uitlanders) was deemed illegal, the aims of the Uitlanders were by no means unreasonable or reprehensible. Like the blacks of South Africa in the Apartheid-era, all the Uitlanders wanted were the basic human rights / franchise laws which were the standard of the time. Kruger’s regime, and the men who defeated the Raiders, were thus every bit as odious as the Apartheid-government forces who would later do everything they could to deny a fair franchise during the latter half of the 20th century. They do not in any way deserve to be lauded as the heroes in this tale.

So, ‘in a nutshell’, this chap has no idea what on earth he is talking about, and should do a bit of reading before hopping on his keyboard and banging away on his little drum of self-pity. What is most telling is that those who are, for whatever reason, resolutely determined to pretend that Boers were the innocent victims of the piece can only keep their ridiculous fiction alive by telling one another lies.

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