This series has eleven easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: Causes of the Boer War.
In more than one respect the war in South Africa was a surprise to the world. It was surprising to see two little republics present a defiant ultimatum to a great empire. It was surprising with what skill and deadly effect the few fought against the many. It was surprising to see some of the British colonies, which were supposed to be most nearly independent, eagerly raising volunteer regiments to aid the mother country. It was surprising that regular armies led by experienced generals met with so many serious reverses and the war was so prolonged. It was surprising that the causes and motive of the struggle were so little under stood in the United States, whose people are a nation of readers. Aside from its political significance, the combat was interesting as one of the most unique and picturesque that ever were waged, and for its complete history the pencil of the artist is needed as well as the pen of the writer.
The three selections address three different parts of the war. For a complete account use the links at the bottom of the page. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
The selections are from:
- The Great Boer War by Arthur Conan Doyle published in 1902.
- Blue Shirt and Khaki by James F.J. Archibald published in 1901.
- Canada; The Story of the Dominion by J. Castell Hopkins published in 1901.
Summary of daily installments:
|Arthur Conan Doyle’s installments:||2.5|
|James F.J. Archibald’s installments:||4.5|
|J. Castell Hopkins’s installments:||4|
We begin with Arthur Conan Doyle, the famous writer of Sherlock Holmes and other works of mystery, history, and historical fiction.
Time: 1902 (ended)
Place: South Africa
At the time of the Convention of Pretoria (1881) the rights of burghership might be obtained by one year’s residence. In 1882 the time was raised to five years, the reasonable limit that obtains both in Great Britain and in the United States. Had it remained so, it is safe to say that there would never have been either a Uitlander question or a Boer war. Grievances would have been righted from the inside without external interference.
In 1890 the inrush of outsiders alarmed the Boers, and the franchise was raised so as to be attainable only by those who had lived fourteen years in the country. The Uitlanders, who were increasing rapidly in numbers and were suffering from a formidable list of grievances, perceived that their wrongs were so numerous it was hopeless to have them set right seriatim, and that only by obtaining the leverage of the franchise could they hope to move the heavy burden that weighed them down. In 1893 a petition of thirteen thousand Uitlanders, couched in most respectful terms, was submitted to the Raad, but it was met with contemptuous neglect. Undeterred by this failure, the National Reform Union, an association that organized the agitation, came back to the attack in 1894. They drew up a petition, which was signed by thirty-five thousand adult male Uitlanders — a greater number than the total Boer population of the country. A small liberal body in the Raad supported this memorial and endeavored in vain to obtain some justice for the new-comers. Mr. Jeppe was the mouthpiece of this select band. “They own half the soil, they pay at least three-quarters of the taxes,” said he. “They are men who in capital, energy, and education are at least our equals. What will become of us or our children on that day when we may find ourselves in a minority of one in twenty without a single friend among the other nineteen, among those who will then tell us that they wished to be brothers, but that we by our own act have made them strangers to the republic?”
Such reasonable and liberal sentiments were combated by members who asserted that the signatures could not belong to law-abiding citizens, since they were actually agitating against the law of the franchise, and by others whose intolerance was ex pressed by defiance of the member already quoted, and who challenged the Uitlanders to come out and fight. The champions of exclusiveness and racial hatred won the day. The memorial was rejected by sixteen votes to eight, and the franchise law was, on the initiative of President Kruger, actually made more stringent than ever, being framed in such a way that during the fourteen years of probation the applicant should give up his previous nationality, so that for that period he would really belong to no country at all. No hopes were held out that any possible attitude on the part of the Uitlanders would soften the determination of the President and his burghers. One who remonstrated was led outside the State buildings by the President, who pointed up at the national flag. ” You see that flag? ” said he. “If I grant the franchise, I may as well pull it down.” His animosity against the immigrants was bitter. ” Burghers, friends, thieves, murderers, new-comers, and others,” is the conciliatory opening of one of his public addresses. Though Johannesburg is only thirty-two miles from Pretoria, and though the State of which he was the head depended for its revenue upon the gold-fields, he paid it only three visits in nine years.
This settled animosity was deplorable, but not unnatural. A man imbued with the idea of a chosen people, and unread in any book save the one which cultivates this very idea, could not be expected to have learned the historical lessons of the advantages a State reaps from a liberal policy. To him it was as if the Ammonites and Moabites had demanded admission into the twelve tribes. He mistook an agitation against the exclusive policy of the State for one against the existence of the State itself. A wide franchise would have made his republic firm-based and permanent. Only a small minority of the Uitlanders had any desire to come into the British system. They were a cosmopolitan set, united only by the bond of a common justice. But when every other method had failed, and their petition for the rights of free men had been flung back at them, it was natural that their eyes should turn to that flag which waved to the north, the west, and the south of them — the flag which means purity of government with equal rights and equal duties for all men. Constitutional agitation was laid aside, arms were smuggled in, and everything was prepared for an organized rising.
The events that followed at the beginning of 1896 [the Jameson raid] have been so thoroughly threshed out that there is, per haps, nothing left to tell — except the truth. So far as the Uitlanders themselves are concerned, their action was most natural and justifiable, and they have no reason to exculpate themselves for rising against such oppression as no men of our race have ever been submitted to. Had they trusted only to themselves and the justice of their cause, their moral and even their material position would have been infinitely stronger. But unfortunately forces were behind them which were more questionable, the nature and extent of which have never yet, in spite of two commissions of investigation, been properly revealed.
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