|The Growth of the British Empire|
|by M. B. Synge|
|Book V of the Story of the World Series. Treats the revolutions in South America and Mexico, the Boer War in South Africa, and the exploration of Central Africa, the Greek and Italian wars for independence, the Crimean War, the American Civil War, the opening of trade with Japan and China, and the rebellion in India. Ages 13-18 |
BRITISH SOUTH AFRICA
"Together, sundered once by blood and speech,
Joined here in equal muster of the brave,
Lie Boer and Briton, foes each worthy each.
May peace strike root into their common grave,
And blossoming where the fathers fought and died,
Bear fruit for sons that labour side by side."
—EDMUND GARRETT (in the Monthly Review).
WHILE progress and the fruits of civilisation followed the Mashonaland Pioneers to golden Rhodesia, the Transvaal
under its President, Paul Kruger, still pursued its old-fashioned mode of life. Severed from Europe two hundred
years before, the Boers clung tenaciously to the ideas of their ancestors. Their religion was that of the
seventeenth century, rigid and stern. They had few
 books and newspapers: they were ignorant of much that was passing in the world beyond. Two hundred years of
solitary pastoral life had given them a distaste for commerce and industry, so that when, in 1884, a sudden
swarm of gold-diggers flocked into their country, they went on their way unaffected by the movement.
Meanwhile the new-comers, by hundreds and thousands, made their way to the high veld south of Pretoria—to
the Witwatersrand, or the white water ridge, where they found gold in abundance. Soon Johannesburg—the
"city of the golden reef"—sprang up in the midst of the famous gold-fields, and the treasury of the
Transvaal grew full to overflowing. From this time onwards, Europeans flocked to the golden city, until they
became more numerous than the Boers themselves. In their own countries—England, Germany,
France—these Europeans, or Outlanders, as they were called by the Dutch, had been accustomed to have a
voice in public affairs; and this they now demanded of Paul Kruger. But the President disliked the intrusion of
foreigners in his country. He thought that to give them a voice in the government meant ruin to the ancient
customs of his forefathers. He feared the tide of modern ideas, which was even now lapping nearer and ever
nearer, and which must, in due course, flow over his land too at the last.
As time went on, the voices of the Outlanders
 grew louder: their grievances increased. "Reform! reform!" they cried persistently. But the old President was
firm. He would concede nothing to these Outlanders—nothing. He could not be brought to see that the very
principle of acting in accordance with the wishes of the people, which had induced England to forego her
dominion over the Transvaal, now pointed to new conditions of government, in which Outlanders and Dutch should
have equal political rights.
"Africa," said Herodotus of old, "is a land of surprises."
BRITISH POSSESSIONS IN AFRICA, 1837.
A surprise was now in store for all. It was the end of December 1895. Some of the Outlanders, tired of their
vain efforts to obtain justice by other means, planned rebellion. They were in communication with Cecil Rhodes,
Prime Minister at the Cape, and Dr Jameson, Administrator of Rhodesia. Dr Jameson had collected a small force
at Mafeking, on the Transvaal borders, and agreed with the Outlanders to join them on a given day, to take
possession of Johannesburg and seize the arsenal at Pretoria. He sadly underrated the intelligence, the
courage, the infinite resource of the Boers, and started off with his troops, only to be met at Krugersdorp by
a strong force of Boers under General Cronje, to whom he had to surrender. The raid deservedly failed.
Punishment in England was meted out to Dr Jameson and his officers, the Johannesburg Outlanders were
 heavily fined by the Transvaal Government, and Cecil Rhodes resigned his position as Prime Minister of the Cape
and retired to Rhodesia.
But no punishment could undo the evil that had been done. Kruger was sterner than ever with the Outlanders, and
a Government, elected by only one class of the population, was carried on. Arms for the Dutch burghers now
poured into the Transvaal in ever-increasing quantities. Rapidly and feverishly, preparations for inevitable
war were pushed on, until 1899. It was a question of who was to be supreme in South Africa.
"Africa for the Africanders!" cried the Dutch.
"Equal rights for all white men!" cried the English.
It was an impossible state of affairs. A conference between Lord Milner and Mr Kruger—representatives of
England and the Transvaal—led to no result. In the autumn of 1899, war was declared by the Boers. The
storm-cloud that had hung over the country for so long had burst at last. The story of the South African war
need not be told again. The resistance was splendid, but the end was certain. The tide of modern thought that
the President had stayed through the long years of his Presidency, swept over the Transvaal and Orange Free
State at the last, and Paul Kruger fled to Europe.
BRITISH POSSESSIONS IN AFRICA, 1903.
But the great statesman, who had seen from the first that progress and modern ideas of government were bound up
with a British South Africa, lay
 sleeping his last sleep amid the Matoppo hills in Rhodesia. Before peace was proclaimed, Cecil Rhodes had died
in the land of his adoption. With all his faults, he was the greatest statesman South Africa has ever seen;
with all his limitations, he was cast in "heroic mould, with an impulse towards noble ends." A "dreamer devout
by vision led, beyond our guess or reach," his ideas were colossal, his outlook on life was vast, his strength
magnificent. One purpose ran through his life, and he worked with all his manhood's power to achieve that
His wish to be buried among the Matoppo hills above Buluwayo, looking forth "across the lands he won," was
characteristic of the man's solitary grandeur; and as the long procession wound amid the hills and valleys of
Rhodesia, even the natives dimly realised that a great man had passed from their midst.
"The immense and brooding spirit still
Shall quicken and control;
Living, he was the land; and dead,
His soul shall be her soul."
Within two months of his death, in 1902, peace was declared.
To-day Boer and Briton stand shoulder to shoulder, "forged in strong fires, by equal war made one," both
members of one great Empire; and as time rolls onward into space, they may feel
"The touch of human brotherhood, and act
As one great nation, true and strong as steel."
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