A CENTURY OF WRONG
The gold fields.
In 1886 gold was discovered in great quantities and in different parts of the South African Republic, and with that discovery our people entered upon a new phase of their history. The South African Republic was to develope within a few years from a condition of great poverty into a rich and prosperous State, a country calculated in every respect to awaken and inflame the greed of the Capitalistic speculator. Within a few years the South African Republic was ranked among the first gold-producing countries of the world. The bare veldt of hitherto was overspread with large townships inhabited by a speculative and bustling class brought together from all corners of the earth. The Boers, who had hitherto followed pastoral and hunting pursuits, were now called upon to fulfil one of the most difficult tasks in the world, namely, the management of a complicated administration, and the government of a large digging population, which had sprung up suddenly under the most extraordinary circumstances. And how have they acquitted themselves of the task? We quote the following from a brilliant pamphlet by Olive Schreiner, who possesses a deeper insight into the true condition of affairs in South Africa than has been vouchsafed to any other writer on the same subject:—
(29) "We put it to all generous and just spirits, whether of statesmen or thinkers, whether the little Republic does not deserve our sympathy, which wise minds give to all who have to deal with new and complex problems, where the past experience of humanity has not marked out a path—and whether, if we touch the subject at all, it is not necessary that it should be in that large impartial, truth-seeking spirit in which humanity demands we should approach all great social difficulties and questions?"
"It is sometimes said that when one stands looking down from the edge of this hill at the great mining camp of Johannesburg stretching beneath, with its heaps of white sand and débris mountain high, its mining chimneys belching forth smoke, with its seventy thousand Kaffirs and its eighty thousand men and women, white or coloured, of all nationalities, gathered here in the space of a few years on the spot where, fifteen years ago, the Boer's son guided his sheep to the water and the Boer's wife sat alone at evening at the house door to watch the sunset, we are looking upon one of the most wonderful spectacles on earth. And it is wonderful; but as we look at it the thought always arises within us of something more wonderful yet—the marvellous manner in which a little nation of simple folk, living in peace in the land they loved, far from the rush of cities and the concourse of men, have risen to the difficulties of their condition; how they, without instruction in statecraft or traditionary rules of policy, have risen to face their great difficulties, and have sincerely endeavoured to meet them in a large spirit, and have largely succeeded. Nothing but that curious and wonderful instinct for statecraft and the organisation and arrangement of new social conditions which seem inherent as a gift of the blood to all those peoples who took their rise in the little deltas on the north-east of the Continent of Europe where the English and Dutch peoples alike took their rise could have made it possible. We do not say that the Transvaal Republic has among its guides and rulers a Solon or a Lycurgus, but it has to-day, among the men guiding its destiny, men of brave and earnest spirit, who are seeking manfully and profoundly to deal with the great problems before them in a wide spirit of humanity and justice. And we do again repeat that the strong sympathy of all earnest and thoughtful minds, not only in Africa, but in England, should be with them."
If one compares the gold fields of the Witwatersrand with those of other countries, it is certain that the former can claim to be the best governed mining area in the world. This is the almost unanimous verdict of people who have had a lengthy experience of the gold fields of California, Australia, and Klondyke.
As far as South Africa is concerned, it is only necessary to instance the diamond fields of Griqualand West when they were directly administered by the British Government. They then afforded a continual spectacle of rebellion, rioting, and indescribable uncertainty of, and danger to, life and property.
In Appendix B. are certain extracts from the evidence of eye witnesses as to the chaos which characterised the condition of the diamond fields when under British rule—a condition which differs from that of the Witwatersrand gold fields as night from day. Reference will be made later on to the administration of the gold fields of the South African Republic. For the present it is necessary to glance at certain forces which had been developed on the diamond fields of the Cape Colony, and which have introduced a new factor of overwhelming importance into the South African situation.
The development of British policy in South Africa had hitherto been influenced at different times, and in a greater or less degree, by the spirit of Jingoism, and by that zeal for Annexation which is so characteristic of the trading instincts of the race. It was, however, a policy that had been conducted in other respects on continuous lines, and it might be justified by the argument that it was necessary in the interests of the Empire. But Capitalism was the new factor which was about to play such an important rôle in the history of South Africa. The natural differences in men find their highest expression in the varieties of influence which one man exercises over another; this influence can either be of a religious, moral, political, or purely material nature. Material influence generally takes the form of money, or the financial nexus, as an English writer has termed it. An unusual combination of this form of influence leads to Capitalism just as an unusual combination of political influence leads to tyranny, and an unusual combination of religious influence to hierarchical despotism. Capitalism is the modern peril which threatens to become as dangerous to mankind as the political tyranny of the old Eastern world and the religious despotism of the Middle Ages were in their respective eras.
In a part of the world so rich in minerals of all descriptions as the Transvaal, it is natural that Capitalism should play a considerable rôle. Unfortunately, in South Africa it has from the very first attempted to go far beyond its legitimate scope; it has endeavoured to gain political power, and to make all other forms of government and influence subservient to its own ends. The measure of its success can be clearly gauged by the fact that all South Africa is standing to-day on the brink of a great precipice, and may be hurled into the abyss before the ink on these pages is dry.
Mr. Cecil Rhodes
The spirit of Capitalism found its incarnation in Mr. Cecil Rhodes, who was able to amalgamate the pressing and conflicting interests of the Diamond Fields into the one great Corporation of which he is the head.
Although he probably had no exceptional aptitude for politics, he was irresistibly drawn towards them by the stress of his interests. By means of his financial influence, together with a double allowance of elasticity of conscience, he succeeded so far as to become Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, and was powerfully and solidly supported by the Africander party. The Africanders believed in him because they were really and deeply imbued with the necessity of the co-operation and fusion of the two white races in South Africa, and he, as a loyal Englishman, but fully possessing the confidence of Colonial Africanderdom, seemed to them just the very person to realise their ideal.
To a careful observer the alliance between Africanderdom and Capitalism was bound to lead to a rupture sooner or later. Deeply rooted and pure national sentiment as well as burning conviction form the basis of Africander Policy, and it was obvious that in the long run it would be discovered that this policy could never be made subservient to purely financial interests.
But there was another factor. There was that debased form of patriotism called Jingoism. It is a form of party politics without solid convictions or real beliefs, which puffs itself out with big words, and with the froth of high-sounding ideas and principles. It is a policy, nevertheless, which appeals most strongly to the instincts of self-interest and to the illegal appropriation of other people's property. It revels in the lust of boasting, so deeply ingrained in human nature. In a word, it is a policy which is in direct opposition to the true spirit of religion, to the altruistic ideals of humanity, and to that sentiment of humility and moderation which is the natural basis of all morality.
Alliance between Capitalism and Jingoism.
Here, indeed, were the elements of an enduring alliance—an alliance between Capitalism, with its great material influence, but barren of any one single exalted idea or principle on the one hand, and Jingoism, sterile, empty, soulless, but with a rich stock-in-trade of bombastic ideas and principles, prompted by the most selfish aspirations, on the other hand.
The one was eminently calculated to form the complement of the other, thus creating a natural alliance which is rapidly becoming a menace, all the world over, to the best and most enduring interests of humanity.
This Capitalistic Jingoism is the tree from which it is the lot of our unfortunate South Africa to gather such bitter fruit to-day.
Mr. Rhodes, with that treacherous duplicity which is an enduring characteristic of British policy in South Africa, co-operated publicly, and in the closest relationship, with the Colonial Africanders, while he was secretly fomenting a conspiracy with Jingoism against the Cape Africanders and the South African Republics. He already had the Africanders in the Cape Colony under his sway; his aim was now to gain the same influence in the South African Republic, with its rich gold mines—not so much, perhaps, for himself personally as for Capitalism, with which his interests were so closely identified. In case of success, he would obtain his personal aim, and Capitalism would be absolutely despotic in South Africa. With an eye to this end he, with other Capitalists, began in 1892 to foment a political agitation in Johannesburg against the Republic. In a place like Johannesburg, where drink is consumed in great quantities, and where the high altitude and the stress of business all tend to keep people's spirits in a constant state of excitability, it was easy enough, with the aid of money, to bring about a state of political ferment in a very short time, especially as just that measure of grievances existed to give a colour of truth to the imaginary ones.
The National Union.
Under these conditions the National Union movement originated in 1892. Its adherents were entirely composed of the creatures and parasites of the Capitalists, with a few honest fools and enthusiasts who naturally did not think deeply enough to discern the aim and the trend of this hypocritical movement.
The Capitalists at this time certainly kept well in the background, in order that the movement might have the appearance of being a popular one. The Capitalists of Johannesburg were, however, a theatrical lot, and the desire to play a prominent rôle was too intense to be suppressed for any length of time, so that after the lapse of a couple of years they naturally took the leading part in the opera bouffe agitation which followed.
Corruption of the Capitalists.
They began, by means of the lowest and most repulsive methods, to undermine the Boer policy in order to gain the mastery of the mining legislation and administration. They had persuaded themselves and the rest of the world that the Boers were as a body corrupt and tainted, so they armed themselves, with the power of money in order to overthrow them.
Lionel Phillips wrote in this spirit on the 16th June, 1894, to Beit in London:—(30) "I may here say that, as you of course know, I have no desire for political rights, and believe as a whole that the community is not ambitious in this respect. The bewaarplaatsen question will, I think, be settled in our favour, but at a cost of about £25,000. It is proposed to spend a good deal of money in order to secure a better Raad, but it must be remembered that the spending of money on elections has, by recent legislation, been made a criminal offence, and the matter will have to be carefully handled."
On the 15th July, 1894, he wrote again to the same correspondent:—(31) "Our trump card is a fund of £10—15,000 to improve the Raad. Unfortunately the companies have no secret service fund. I must divine away. We don't want to shell out ourselves."
Here we catch a glimpse behind the scenes, and we observe how the Capitalists in 1894 had already endeavoured to lower and vitiate our public life by methods which did not even recoil before the criminal law of the land, to say nothing of elementary morality.
And did they succeed? Were the people and the Volksraad as corrupt as they thought, and as they still endeavour to make the world believe? Their failure is the best and most complete answer to this calumny.
If corruption on a large scale, however, failed to ensure the triumph of Capitalism over the community, the other trump card of Jingoism still remained. The pulse of the High Commissioner was felt by Mr. Lionel Phillips, and what was the answer of Sir Henry Loch, Her Majesty's representative in South Africa? We extract from the same secret letter book from which we have already quoted the following letter, dated 1st July, addressed to Wernher, a member of the influential firm of Wernher, Beit & Co.:—
(Sir) Henry Loch's indiscretion.
(32) "Sir Henry Loch (with whom I had two long private interviews alone) asked me some very pointed questions, such as what arms we had in Johannesburg, whether the population could hold the place for six days until help could arrive, etc., etc., and stated plainly that if there had been three thousand rifles and ammunition here he would certainly have come over."
And so on in the same strain. Sir Henry Loch endorsed the truth of these statements two years later by boasting openly in the House of Lords about his plans for organising a raid into the South African Republic.
And all this happened while he (Sir Henry Loch) was the guest of our Government, and engaged in friendly negotiations about the interests of British subjects. To what a depth had British Policy in South Africa already degenerated. Within two years, however, a deeper abyss was to open.
The secret conspiracy of the Capitalists and Jingoes to overthrow the South African Republic began now to gain ground with great rapidity, for just at this critical period Mr. Chamberlain became Secretary of State for the Colonies. In the secret correspondence of the conspirators, reference is continually made to the Colonial Office in a manner which, taken in connection with later revelations and with a successful suppression of the truth, has deepened the impression over the whole world that the Colonial Office was privy to, if not an accomplice in, the villainous attack on the South African Republic.
The Jameson Raid
It is unnecessary to dwell at length on the Jameson Raid; the world has not yet forgotten how the Administrators of a British province, carrying out a conspiracy headed by the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, attacked the South African Republic with an armed band in order to assist the Capitalist revolution of Johannesburg in overthrowing the Boer Government; how this raid and this revolution were upset by the vigilance of the Boers; how Jameson and his filibusters were handed over to England to stand their trial—although the Boers had the power and the right to shoot them down as robbers; how the whole gang of Johannesburg Capitalists pleaded guilty to treason and sedition; how, instead of confiscating all their property, and thus dealing a death blow to Capitalistic influence in South Africa, the Government dealt most leniently with them (an act of magnanimity which was rewarded by their aiding and abetting a still more dangerous agitation three years later).
The Parliamentary Commission.
Nor has the world forgotten how, at the urgent instance of the Africander party in the Cape Colony, an investigation into the causes of the conflict was held in Westminster; how that investigation degenerated into a low attack upon the Government of the sorely maligned and deeply injured South African Republic, and how at the last moment, when the truth was on the point of being revealed, and the conspiracy traced to its fountain head in the British Cabinet, the Commission decided all of a sudden not to make certain compromising documents public.
Here we see to what a depth the old great traditions of British Constitutionalism had sunk under the influence of the ever-increasing and all-absorbing lust of gold, and in the hands of a sharp-witted wholesale dealer, who, like Cleon of old, has constituted himself a statesman. Treachery and violence not having been able to attain their objects, "Constitutional means" were to be invoked (as Mr. Rhodes openly boasted before the aforesaid Commission), so as to make Capitalistic Jingoism master of the situation in South Africa.
(29) Olive Schreiner, Words in Season, page 62.
(30) Transvaal Green Book No. 1 of 1896.
(31) Transvaal Green Book No. 1 of 1896.
(32) Transvaal Green Book No. 1 of 1896.