History of Cape Colony from 1870 to 1899

History of Cape Colony from 1870 to 1899

The year 1870 in the history of the Cape Colony marks the dawn of a new era in South Africa, and it can be said that the development of modern South Africa began on that date. Despite political complications that arose from time to time, progress in Cape Colony continued at a steady pace until the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer Wars in 1899. The discovery of diamonds in the Orange River in 1867 was immediately followed by similar finds in the Vaal River. This led to the rapid occupation and development of huge tracts of the country, which had hitherto been sparsely inhabited. Dutoitspan and Bultfontein diamond mines were discovered in 1870, and in 1871 the even richer mines of Kimberley and De Beers were discovered. These four great deposits of mineral wealth were incredibly productive, and constituted the greatest industrial asset that the Colony possessed.

This period also witnessed the increasing tensions between the English-dominated Cape Colony and the Afrikaner-dominated Transvaal. These conflicts led to the break out of the First Boer War. These tensions mainly concerned the easing of trade restrictions between the different colonies, as well as the construction of railways. The leaders of Cape Colony consistently believed the leaders of the colonies around them to be more trustworthy and reliable than they were, which caused internal problems within the Cape.

Development of modern conditions

At the time of the beginning of the diamond industry, all of South Africa was experiencing depressed economic conditions. Ostrich-farming was in its infancy, and agriculture had only been lightly developed. The Boers, except those in the immediate vicinity of Cape Town, lived in primitive conditions. They only traded limitedly with the Colony for durable goods. Even the British colonists were far from wealthy. The diamond industry was therefore considerably attractive, especially to colonists of British origin. It was also a means to demonstrate that South Africa, which appeared to be barren and poor on the surface, was rich below the ground. It takes ten acres (40,000 m²) of Karoo to feed a sheep, but it was now possible that a few square metres of diamondiferous blue ground would be able to feed a dozen families. By the end of 1871, a large population had already gathered on the diamond fields, and immigration increased dramatically, which brought in many newcomers. Among the first to seek a fortune on the diamond fields was Cecil Rhodes.

Sir George Grey's plan for a federation of all the various colonies in South Africa had been rejected in 1858 by the home authorities. Later, the 4th Earl of Carnarvon, secretary of state for the colonies, turned his attention to a federation in South Africa after he successfully federated Canada. He envisaged a similar set-up in South Africa. The representative government in Cape Colony was replaced in 1872 by "responsible government", ie self-government, and the new parliament in Cape Town resented the manner in which Lord Carnarvon presented his suggestions. A resolution was passed on 11 June 1875 that started that any scheme in favour of confederation must originate from within South Africa itself. James Anthony Froude, a distinguished historian, was sent by Lord Carnarvon to further his policies in South Africa. However, the general public in South Africa deemed him to be a diplomat and representative of the British government, and he was thus not a success: he entirely failed to induce the colonists to adopt Lord Carnarvon's plan. In 1876, Fingoland, the Idutywa reserve and other tracts of land along the Xhosa frontier were annexed by Britain on the understanding that the Cape government should provide for their government. Lord Carnarvon, still bent on confederation, now appointed Sir Bartle Frere governor of Cape Colony and high commissioner of South Africa.

Frere had no sooner taken office as high commissioner than he found himself confronted with serious African native troubles in Zululand and on the Xhosa frontier of Cape Colony. There was a serious rebellion in 1877 by the Galekas and the Gaikas. A considerable force of imperial and colonial troops was required in order to put down the uprising, and the war was subsequently known as the Ninth Xhosa War. The famous Xhosa chief, Sandii, lost his life during the course of the war. After the war ended, the Transkei or the territory of the Galeka tribe who were led by Kreli, was annexed by the British. While the war was being fought, Lord Carnarvon resigned his position in the British cabinet and his scheme for confederation was abandoned.

What Lord Carnarvon did not realise was that, at the time, Cape Colony was too busy dealing with "native" troubles to even consider something as involved as confederation. A wave of discontent spread amongst the different Xhosa tribes on the colonial frontier, and there was another uprising in Basutoland under Moirosi after the Gaika-Galeka War. The Xhosa under Moirosi had to be put down with severe fighting by a colonial force, but their defeat notwithstanding, the Basutos remained restless and aggressive for several years. In 1880, the colonial authorities attempted to extend the Peace Preservation Act of 1878 to Basutoland, attempting a general disarmament of the Basutos. Further fighting followed the proclamation, which did not have a conclusive end, although peace was declared in December 1882. The imperial government took over Basutoland as a crown colony, on the understanding that Cape Colony should contribute £18,000 annually for administrative purposes. The authorities of the Colony were incredibly glad to be relieved in 1884 of the administration of the Transkei, whose administration had already cost them more than £3,000,000.

Sir Bartle Frere, who had won the esteem and regard of loyal South African colonists with his energetic and statesmanlike attitude on relations with the natives’ states, was recalled in 1880 by the 1st Earl of Kimberley, the liberal secretary of state for the colonies. He was succeeded by Sir Hercules Robinson. Griqualand West, which included most of the diamond fields, also became an incorporated portion of Cape Colony.

Origin of the Afrikander Bond

The disastrous end of the Boer War of 1881 had repercussions that spread throughout South Africa. One of the most important results was the first Afrikander Bond congress that was held in 1882 at Graaf Reinet. The Bond developed to include both the Transvaal, the Orange Free State, and Cape Colony. Each country had a provincial committee with district committees, and branches were distributed through South Africa. Later on, the Bond in the Cape Colony dissociated itself from its Republican branches. The policy of the Bond is best summarised by an excerpt from "De Patriot", a paper published in the colony and an avowed supporter of the Bond.

:"The Afrikander Bond has for its object the establishment of a South African nationality by spreading a true love for what is really our fatherland. No better time could be found for establishing the Bond than the present, when the consciousness of nationality has been thoroughly aroused by the Transvaal war... The British government keeps on talking about a confederation under the British flag, but that will never be brought about. They can be quite certain of that. There is just one obstacle in the way of confederation, and that is the British flag. Let them remove that, and in less than a year the confederation would be established under the Free Afrikander flag.

:After a time the English will realize that the advice given them by Froude was the best — they must just have Simon’s Bay as a naval and military station on the way to India, and give over all the rest of South Africa to the Afrikanders... Our principal weapon in the social war must be the destruction of English trade by our establishing trading companies for ourselves ...It is the duty of each true Afrikander not to spend anything with the English that he can avoid." ("De Patriot". 1882.)

In addition to its press organs, the Bond published official statements from time to time that were less frank in their tone than the statements from its press. Some of the articles of the Bond's original manifesto can be considered entirely neutral, e.g. those referring to the administration of justice, honouring people, etc. However, these clauses were meaningless in the view of the government in Cape Colony, for Article 3 on the manifesto advocated complete independence ("Zelfstandieheid") for South Africa, which was tantamount to treason against the Crown.

If the Bond prompted disloyalty and insubordination in some of the Cape inhabitants, it also caused loyalty and patriotism in another group. A pamphlet written in 1885 for an association called the Empire League on the behalf of the Bond, stated the following: :"(1) That the establishment of the English government here was beneficial to all classes; and : (2) that the withdrawal of that government would be disastrous to every one having vested interests in the colony. . . . England never can, never will, give up this colony, and we colonists will never give up England. Let us, the inhabitants of the Cape Colony, be swift to recognize that we are one people, cast together under a glorious flag of liberty, with heads clear enough to appreciate the freedom we enjoy, and hearts resolute to maintain our true privileges; let us desist from reproaching and insulting one another, and, rejoicing that we have this goodly land as a common heritage, remember that by united action only can we realize its grand possibilities. We belong both of us to a home-loving stock, and the peace and prosperity of every home in the land is at stake. On our action now depends the question whether our children shall curse or bless us; whether we shall live in their memory as promoters of civil strife, with all its miserable consequences, or as joint architects of a happy, prosperous, and united state. Each of us looks back to a noble past. United, we may ensure to our descendants a not unworthy future. Disunited, we can hope for nothing but stagnation, misery and ruin. Is this a light thing?" Fact|date=September 2007

It is probable that many Englishmen who read the Empire League's manifesto at the regarded it as unduly alarmist, but subsequent events proved the soundness of the views it expressed. From 1881 onwards, two great rival ideas came into being, each strongly opposed to the other. One was that of Imperialism — full civil rights for every "civilized" man, whatever his race might be, under the supremacy and protection of Britain. The other was nominally republican, but in fact exclusively oligarchic and Dutch. The policy of the extremists of this last party was summed up in the appeal, which President Kruger made to the Free State in February 1881, when he bade them: "Come and help us. God is with us. It is his will to unite us as a people ... to make a united South Africa free from British authority." Fact|date=September 2007

The two actual founders of the Bond party were a German man named Borckenhagen who lived in Bloemfontein, and an Afrikaner named Reitz, who afterwards became the state secretary of the Transvaal. There are two recorded interview that show the true aims of the founders of the Bond from the very beginning. One occurred between Borckenhagen and Cecil Rhodes, the other between Reitz and T. Schreiner, whose brother later became prime minister of Cape Colony. In the first interview, Borckenhagen remarked to Rhodes: "We want a united Africa," and Rhodes replied: "So do I". Mr Borckenhagen then continued: "There is nothing in the way; we will take you as our leader. There is only one small thing: we must, of course, be independent of the rest of the world." Rhodes replied: "You take me either for a rogue or a fool. I should be a rogue to forfeit all my history and my traditions; and I should be a fool, because I should be hated by my own countrymen and mistrusted by yours." But as Rhodes said in Cape Town in 1898, "the only chance of a true union is the overshadowing protection of a supreme power, and any German, Frenchman, or Russian would tell you that the best and most liberal power is that over which Her Majesty reigns." Fact|date=September 2007

The other interview took place just as the Bond was being established. Being approached by Reitz, Schreiner objected to the fact that the Bond aimed ultimately to overthrow British rule and remove the British flag from South Africa. To this, Reitz replied: "Well, what if it is so?" Schreiner expostulated in the following terms: "You do not suppose that that flag is going to disappear without a tremendous struggle and hard fighting?" "Well, I suppose not, but even "so", what of that?" rejoined Reitz. Fact|date=September 2007 In the face of this testimony with reference to two of the most prominent of the Bond’s promoters, it is impossible to deny that from its beginning the great underlying idea of the Bond was an independent South Africa.


The Cape legislative assembly passed an act in 1882 that gave members the right to speak in Dutch on the floor of the House if they so desired. The intent of the act was liberal, but the moment of its introduction was inopportune, and its effect was to give additional stimulus to the actions of the Bond. It also allowed a number of Dutchmen to be elected to the House. The Dutchmen were poorly educated and would not have been elected if they were required to speak English, thus giving Dutch leaders greater influence.

At the time, the head of the Afrikander Bond in Cape Colony as well as leader of Dutch opinion was Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr. Although he was the recognised leader of the Dutch party in Cape Colony, he consistently refused to take office, preferring to direct the policy and actions of others from afar. Hofmeyr sat in the House of Assembly as member for Stellenbosch, a strong Dutch constituency. His influence over the Dutch members was very strong, and in addition to directing the policy of the Bond within the Cape Colony, he supported and defended the aggressive expansion policy of President Kruger and the Transvaal Boers.

In 1883, during a debate on the Basutoland Dis-annexation Bill, Rhodes openly charged Hofmeyr in the House with a desire to create a "United States of South Africa under its own flag". In 1884, Hofmeyr led the Bond in its strong support of the Transvaal Boers that had invaded Bechuanaland, proclaiming that if the Bechuanaland freebooters were not permitted to retain the territory they had seized, totally disregarding the terms of the conventions of 1881 and 1884, there would be a rebellion among the Cape Colony Dutch. Fortunately for the peace of Cape Colony at that time, Sir Charles Warren, who had been sent by the imperial government to maintain British rights, was able to remove the invading Boers from Stellaland and Goshen, which were two republics set up by the Boer invaders in March 1885. Thus, no rebellion occurred. Nevertheless, the Bond party was so strong in the House that they compelled the ministry under Sir Thomas Scanlen to resign in 1884.

The logical and constitutional course for Hofmeyr to follow in these circumstances would have been to accept office and form a government himself. This he refused to do, instead preferring to give his support to someone who would be entirely dependent upon him. This person, named Upington, was a clever Irish barrister who formed what has subsequently come to be known as the "Warming Pan" Ministry in 1884. Many British colonists, who remained sufficiently loyal to the United Kingdom, denounced this political act to Britain, invoking the constitution that Britain had conferred upon Cape Colony as they wanted the man who really wielded political power to act as the responsible head of the party. Hofmeyr’s refusal to accept this responsibility as well as the nature of his Bond policy that won for him the political sobriquet of "the Mole". Englishmen and English colonists would have accepted and welcomed open and responsible exercise of power as conferred under the constitution of the country. But the underground method of Dutch policymaking, which was strongest in Pretoria, was deeply resented by Britain-loyal colonists.

Hofmeyr practically determined how Dutch MPs should vote from 1881 to 1898 while also guiding the policy behind the Bond throughout its history. He resigned his seat in Parliament 1895, which made his political dictatorship even more remarkable. Other well-known politicians from the Cape subsequently changed their views to those of the Bond in order to maintain their popularity.

Rhodes and Dutch sentiment

Cecil Rhodes recognised the difficulties of his position and showed a desire to conciliate Dutch sentiment by considerate treatment from the outset of his political career. Rhodes was first elected as member of the House of Assembly for Barkly West in 1880 to a loyal constituency. He supported the bill permitting the use of Dutch in the House of Assembly in 1882, and, early in 1884, he was appointed to his first ministerial post as treasurer-general under Sir Thomas Scanlen. Rhodes had only held this position for six weeks when Sir Thomas Scanlen resigned. Sir Hercules Robinson sent him to British Bechuanaland in August 1884 as deputy-commissioner to succeed Reverend John Mackenzie, the London Missionary Society's representative at Kuruman, who proclaimed Queen Victoria's authority over the district in May 1883. Rhodes's efforts to conciliate the Boers failed, hence the necessity for the Warren mission. In 1885, the territories of Cape Colony were farther extended, and Tembuland, Bomvanaland, and Galekaland were formally added to the colony. Sir Gordon Sprigg became prime minister in 1886.

outh African Customs Union

There was considerable unrest in Cape Colony in the period from 1878 to 1885. In this short period of time, there were chronic troubles with the Basutos which prompted the Cape to give them back to the imperial authorities as well as a series of native disturbances which were followed by the First Boer War of 1881 and the Bechuanaland disturbances of 1884. In spite of these drawbacks, the development of the country continued. The diamond industry was flourishing. A conference was held in London in 1887 for "promoting a closer union between the various parts of the British empire by means of an imperial tariff of customs". At this conference, Hofmeyr proposed a sort of "Zollverein" scheme, in which imperial customs were to be levied independently of the duties payable on all goods entering the empire from abroad. In making the proposition, he stated that his objective was "to promote the union of the empire, and at the same time to obtain revenue for the purposes of general defence". The scheme was found to be impractical at the time. But its wording, as well as the sentiments accompanying it, created a favourable view of Hofmeyr.

In spite of the failure of statesmen and high commissioners to bring about political confederation, the members of the Cape parliament set about establishing a South African Customs Union in 1888. A Customs Union Bill was passed, constituting a considerable development towards federation. Shortly after the bill passed, the Orange Free State joined the union. There was an attempt made then, and for many years afterwards, to get the Transvaal to join, but President Kruger, who was pursuing his own policy, hoped to make the South African Republic entirely independent of Cape Colony through the Delagoa Bay railway. The plan to create a customs union that included the Transvaal was also little to the taste of President Kruger's Hollander advisers as they were invested in the plans of the Netherlands Railway Company, who owned the railways of the Transvaal.

Diamonds and railways

Another event of considerable commercial importance to the Cape Colony, and indeed to all of South Africa, was the amalgamation of the diamond-mining companies which was chiefly brought about by Cecil Rhodes, Alfred Beit and "Barney" Barnato in 1889. One of the principal and most beneficial results of the discovery and development of the diamond mines was the great impetus that it gave to railway expansion. Lines were opened up to Worcester, Beaufort West, Graham’s Town, Graaff Reinet, and Queenstown. Kimberley was reached in 1885. In 1890 the line was extended northwards on the western frontier of the Transvaal as far as Vryburg in Bechuanaland. In 1889, the Free State entered into an arrangement with the Cape Colony whereby the main trunk railway was extended to Bloemfontein, the Free State receiving half the profits. Subsequently the Free State bought at cost price the portion of the railway in its own territory. In 1891, the Free State railway was still farther extended to Viljoen’s Drift on the Vaal River, and in 1892 it reached Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Rhodes as Prime Minister

In 1889 Sir Henry Loch was appointed high commissioner and governor of Cape Colony after succeeding Sir Hercules Robinson. In 1890 Sir Gordon Sprigg, the premier of the colony, resigned, and a government under Rhodes was formed. Prior to the formation of this ministry, and while Sir Gordon Sprigg was still in office, Hofmeyr had approached Rhodes and offered to put him in office as a Bond nominee, but the offer was declined. When Rhodes was invited to take office after the downfall of the Sprigg ministry, however, he asked the Bond leaders to meet him and discuss the situation. His policy of customs and railway unions between the various states when added to the personal esteem which many Dutchmen at the time had for him, enabled him to undertake and to successfully carry out the business of government.

The colonies of British Bechuanaland and Basutoland were now included in the customs union between the Orange Free State and Cape Colony. Pondoland, another native territory, was added to the colony in 1894. The act dealt with natives who resided in certain native reserves and provided for their interests and holdings. It also awarded them certain privileges that they had hitherto not enjoyed, and also required them to pay a small labour tax. This was in many respects the most statesmanlike act dealing with natives on the statue-book. In the parliamentary sitting of 1895, Rhodes was able to report that the Act had been applied to 160,000 natives. The labour clauses of the act, which were not being applied, were repealed in 1905. The clauses had some success as they prompted many thousands of natives to fulfil their labour requirements in order to be exempted from the labour tax.

In other regards, Rhode's native policy was marked by a combination of consideration and firmness. Ever since the granting of self-government, the natives had enjoyed the right to vote. An act passed in 1892, on Rhodes' insistence, imposed an educational test on applications who wanted to register to vote as well as creating several other restrictions on the native vote as there were fears that "tribal" natives would possibly "endanger" the current system of government.

Rhodes opposed native liquor trafficking and suppressed it entirely on the diamond mines at the risk of offending some of his supporters among the brandy-farmers of the western provinces. He also restricted it as much as he could on native reserves and territories. Nevertheless, liquor trafficking continued on colonial farms and to some extent on in native territory and reserves. The Khoikhoi were particularly fond of the drink as they had been almost completely demoralised from their military losses.

A little-known instance of Rhode's keen insight in native affairs that had lasting results on the history of the colony is his actions in an inheritance case. After the territories east of the Kei River were added to the Cape Colony, an inheritance claim came up for trial. In accordance with the law of the colony, the court held that the eldest son of a native was his heir. This decision was strongly resented among the natives of the territory, as it directly contradicted native tribal law which recognised the great son, or the son of the chief wife, as heir. The government was threatened with further native rebellions when Rhodes telegraphed his assurance that compensation would be granted and that such a decision would never be made again. His assurance was accepted and tranquillity was restored.

At the end of the next parliamentary sitting after this incident occurred, Rhodes tabled a bill that he had drafted that was the shortest in the history of the House. It stated that all civil cases were to be tried by magistrates and that appeals could be launched to the chief magistrate of the territory with an assessor. Criminal cases were to be tried before supreme court judges on circuit. The bill passed with the effect that, inasmuch as the magistrates practiced according to native law, that native marriage customs and laws, including polygamy, were legalised in the colony.

Sir Hercules Robinson was reappointed governor in 1895 and high commissioner of South Africa to succeeded Sir Henry Loch. In the same year, Mr Chamberlain became secretary of state for the colonies.

Movement for commercial federation

With the development of railways and the increase in trade between Cape Colony and the Transvaal, politicians in both places began to debate forming a closer relationship. While acting as Premier of Cape Colony, Rhodes endeavoured to bring about the friendly gesture of commercial federation among the states and colonies of South Africa by means of a customs union. He hoped to established both a commercial and a railway union, which is illustrated by a speech he gave in 1894 in Cape Town:

:"With full affection for the flag which I have been born under, and the flag I represent, I can understand the sentiment and feeling of a republican who has created his independence, and values that before all; but I can say fairly that I believe in the future that I can assimilate the system, which I have been connected with, with the Cape Colony, and it is not an impossible idea that the neighbouring republics, retaining their independence, should share with us as to certain general principles. If I might put it to you, I would say the principles of tariffs, the principle of railway connection, the principle of appeal in law, the principle of coinage, and in fact all those principles which exist at the present moment in the United States, irrespective of the local assemblies which exist in each separate state in that country." Fact|date=September 2007

President Kruger and the Transvaal government found every possible objection to this policy. Their actions in what became known as the Vaal River Drift Question best illustrates the plan of action that the Transvaal government thought best. A series of disagreements arose over the termination of the 1894 agreement between the Cape government railway and the Netherlands railway. The Cape government had advanced the sum of £600,000 to the Netherlands railway and the Transvaal government conjointly for the purposes of extending the railway from the Vaal River to Johannesburg. At the same time, it was stipulated that the Cape government have the right to fix the rate of traffic until the end of 1894, or until the Delagoa Bay-Pretoria line was completed.

The rate of traffic was fixed by the Cape government at 2d. per ton per mile, but at the beginning of 1895 the rate for the convert|52|mi|km of railway from the Vaal River to Johannesburg was raised by the Netherlands railway to no less than 8d. per ton per mile. It is evident from President Kruger's subsequent actions that these changes were based upon his personal approval with the goal of compelling traffic to the Transvaal to use the Delagoa route instead of the colonial railway. To compete with this very high rate, the merchants of Johannesburg began moving their goods across the Vaal River with wagons. In a direct response, President Kruger closed the drifts or fords on the Vaal River, preventing through-wagon traffic. This created an enormous block of wagons on the banks of the Vaal. There were several protests launched by the Cape government against the actions of the Transvaal because it was a breach of the London Convention.

President Kruger was not moved by these protests, and an appeal was made to the imperial government. The imperial government made an agreement with the Cape Government to the effect that if the Cape would bear half the cost of any necessary expedition, assist with troops, and give full use of the Cape railway for military purposes if required, a protest would be sent to President Kruger on the subject. These terms were accepted by Rhodes and his colleagues, of whom W. P. Schreiner was one, and a protest was sent by Chamberlain stating that the government regarded the closing of the drifts as a breach of the London Convention, and as an unfriendly action that called for the gravest of responses. President Kruger reopened the drifts at once, and stated that he would issue no further directives on the subject except after consultation with the imperial government.

Leander Starr Jameson made his famous raid into the Transvaal on 29 December 1895, and Rhode's complicity in the action compelled him to resign the premiership of Cape Colony in January 1896. Sir Gordon Sprigg took the vacant post. As Rhode's complicity in the raid became known, there was a strong feeling of resentment and astonishment among his colleagues in the Cape ministry who had been ignorant of his connections with such schemes. The Bond and Hofmeyr denounced him particularly strongly, and the Dutch became even more embittered against the English in Cape Colony, which influenced their subsequent attitude towards the Transvaal Boers.

There was another native uprising under a Bantu chief named Galeshwe in Griqualand West in 1897, but Galeshwe was arrested and the rebellion ended. Upon examination, Galeshwe stated that Bosman, a Transvaal magistrate, supplied him with ammunition and encouraged him to rebel against the government of Cape Colony. There was sufficient evidence to believe the charge to be true, and it was consistent with the methods the Boers sometimes used among the natives.

Sir Alfred Milner was appointed high commissioner of South Africa and governor of Cape Colony in 1897, succeeding Sir Hercules Robinson, who was made a peer under the title of Baron Rosmead in August 1896.

chreiner's policy

Commercial federation advanced another state in 1898 when Natal entered the customs union. A new convention was drafted at the time, creating a "uniform tariff on all imported goods consumed within such union, and an equitable distribution of the duties collected on such goods amongst the parties to such union, and free trade between the colonies and state in respect of all South African products". Another Cape parliamentary election was held in the same year, which elected another Bond ministry under W. P. Schreiner. Schreiner remained as head of the Cape Government until June 1900.

During the negotiations that proceeded the outbreak of the Second Boer War in 1899, feelings were running very high at the Cape. As the head of a party that depended upon the Bond for its support, he had to balance several different influences. However, as prime minister of a British colony, loyal colonists strongly felt that he should have refrained from openly interfering with Transvaal government and the imperial government. His public statements were hostile in tone to the policy that Chamberlain and Sir Alfred Milner pursued. The effect of Schreiner's hostility is believed by some to have encouraged President Kruger in his rejection of the British proposals. In private, Schreiner directly used whatever influence he possessed to induce President Kruger to adopt a "reasonable" course, but however excellent his intentions, his publicly expressed disapproval of the Chamberlain/Milner policy did more harm than his private influence with Kruger could possibly do good.

Schreiner asked the high commissioner on 11 June 1899 to inform Chamberlain that he and his colleagues decided to accept President Kruger's Bloemfontein proposals as "practical, reasonable and a considerable step in the right direction". Later in June, however, Cape Dutch politicians began to realise that President Kruger's attitude was not as reasonable as they had believed, and Hofmeyr, along with a Mr Herholt, the Cape Minister of Agriculture, visited Pretoria. After they arrived, they found the Transvaal Volksraad to be in a spirit of defiance and that it had just passed a resolution that offered four new seats in the Volksraad to represent the mining districts, and fifteen exclusive burgher districts. Hofmeyr, upon meeting the executive, freely expressed indignation at these proceedings. Unfortunately, Hofmeyr's influence was more than counterbalanced by an emissary from the Free State named Abraham Fischer who while purporting to be a peacemaker, practically encouraged the Boer executive to take extreme measures.

Hofmeyr's established reputation as an astute diplomat and the leader of the Cape Dutch Party made him a powerful delegate. If anyone could convince Kruger to change his plan, it was Hofmeyr. The moderates on all sides of the issue looked to Hofmeyr expectantly, but none as much as Schreiner. But Hofmeyr's mission, like every other such mission to induce Kruger to take a "reasonable" and equitable course, proved entirely fruitless. He returned to Cape Town disappointed, but not altogether surprised at the failure of his mission. Meanwhile, the Boer executive drafted a new proposal which prompted Schreiner to write a letter on 7 July to the "South African News", in which while referring to his own government, he said: "While anxious and continually active with good hope in the cause of securing reasonable modifications of the existing representative system of the South African Republic, this government is convinced that no ground whatever exists for active interference in the internal affairs of that republic".

The letter proved to be precipitate and unfortunate. On 11 July, after meeting with Hofmeyr after his return, Schreiner personally appealed to President Kruger to approach the imperial government with a friendly spirit. Another incident happened at the same time that caused public feeling to become extremely hostile towards Schreiner. On 7 July, 500 rifles and 1,000,000 rounds of ammunition were off shored at Port Elizabeth, consigned to the Free State government, and forwarded to Bloemfontein. The consignment was brought to Scheiner's attention, but he refused to stop it. He justified his decision by saying that since Britain was at peace with the Free State, he had no right to stop the shipment of arms through the Cape Colony. However, his inaction won him the sobriquet "Ammunition Bill" among British colonists. He was later accused of a delay in forwarding artillery and rifles to defend Kimberley, Mafeking, and other towns in the colony. He gave the excuse that he did not anticipate war, and that he did not want to create unwarranted suspicions in the minds of the Free State government. His conduct in both instances was perhaps technically correct, but was much resented by loyal colonists.

Chamberlain sent a conciliatory message to President Kruger on 28 July, suggesting a meeting of delegates to consider the latest set of proposals. On 3 August, Schreiner telegraphed Fischer begging the Transvaal to accept Chamberlain's proposal. Later, after receiving an inquiry from the Free State amount the movements of British troops, Schreiner curtly refused to disclose any information, and referred the Free State to the high commissioner. On 28 August, Sir Gordon Sprigg moved the adjournment in the House of Assembly to discuss the removal of arms from the Free State. In reply, Schreiner used expression which demanded the strongest possible censure of Sprigg possible, both in the colony and in Britain. Schreiner stated that should troubles arise, Sprigg would keep the colony aloof in regard to both its military and its people. In the course of his speech, he read a telegram from President Steyn in which the president repudiated all possible aggressive action on any part of the Free State as absurd. The speech created a scandal in the British press.

It is quite obvious from a review of Schreiner's conduct through the latter half of 1899 that he was entirely mistaken in his view of the Transvaal situation. He demonstrated the same inability to understand the uitlanders' grievances, the same futile belief in the eventual fairness of President Kruger as premier of Cape Colony as he had shown when giving evidence before the British South Africa Select Committee into the causes of the Jameson Raid. Experience should have taught him that President Kruger was beyond any appeal to reason, and that the protestations of President Steyn were insincere.


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* "The War of the Axe, 1847: Correspondence between the governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Henry Pottinger, and the commander of the British forces at the Cape, Sir George Berkeley, and others". Basil Alexander Le Cordeur. Brenthurst Press. 1981. 287 pages. ISBN 0-909079-14-5.
* "Blood Ground: Colonialism, Missions, and the Contest for Christianity in the Cape Colony and Britain, 1799–1853". Elizabeth Elbourne. McGill-Queen's University Press. December 2002. 560 pages. ISBN 0-7735-2229-8.
* "Recession and its aftermath: The Cape Colony in the eighteen eighties". Alan Mabin. University of the Witwatersrand, African Studies Institute. 1983. 27 pages. ASIN B0007B2MXA.

External links

* [http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/section/CapeProv_History.asp Cape Colony History on Encyclopedia.com]
* [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?tocId=44059 Encyclopædia Britannica Cape Colony]

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