« AnteriorContinua »
The Republics have fought for their independence, and have fought well for it, but they have lost; and any attempt to set them up again as quasi-independent nations bound only by international conventions is out of the question. War, with all its horrors, has one merit. It makes an end, at least for a time, of many disputed theories and open questions. It shows unmistakably to all concerned where power lies, and this being once established it is possible to build on a sure foundation. Throughout the British Empire the almost universal feeling prevails—and we think, having regard to facts, that the sentiment is a right and just one that South Africa, where it is not Portuguese or German, must be British. Subject to this, the more of autonomy that can be granted to the inhabitants of the newly acquired regions the better, for our sakes not less than for theirs.
It is after British supremacy has been settled that the real difficulties begin; and they will not be solved by mere appeals to anti-Boer or anti-Dutch feeling. This may do for English electioneering; but the British Cabinet has much more important work before it, and upon how they do it will depend their own credit for statesmanship and the future of South Africa. The British colonists of South Africa have deserved well of the Empire, and their interests must be duly safeguarded, but without establishing racial privilege. The problem before us is how to reconcile two jarring races inhabiting not the Transvaal and Orange Free State only, but the British Colonies as well. That the Imperial authority should make itself even in appearance the mere agent of anti-Dutch feeling in South Africa would be simply disastrous. It is sometimes inevitable, but it is always unfortunate when Imperial authority becomes tainted with the suspicion of being influenced by local faction; and the position becomes an almost impossible one where the constituted authorities of the colony and the majority of the local Parliament are in opposition to the representative of the Crown or the Colonial Office. It is but natural, and it is only to be expected, that a party in a minority should try to make the · Imperial Factor subserve its own ends; but were such an attempt to succeed, the knell of constitutional government would have rung. A parliamentary Government cannot even with extraneous support govern long against the will of Parliament; and unless British statesmen and the British people have unlearned all the lessons of their past history, they will hardly be induced by appeals to narrow racial feeling to enter upon the hope
less task of governing South Africa from Downing Street in opposition to the sentiments of South African statesmen supported by the wishes and votes of the majority of their fellow-citizens.
As to the two Republics, it is clear that for a limited period after the conclusion of the war the country will have to be administered under military authority. In this way only will it be possible for a firm and just rule to prevail. Any attempt to convert the hitherto purely Dutch rule into an exclusively Uitlander rule would only serve to aggravate the bitter feelings which the war must inevitably leave behind it; and it would certainly be productive of the greatest injustice towards the vanquished people. The Boers of the Transvaal have not, from their experience of Mr. Rhodes and his friends, or their knowledge of Johannesburg, acquired an exalted notion of the aims and methods of British South African politicians. Their view may have been an unenlightened and mistaken one, but they have undoubtedly believed all along that for them British supremacy meant the rule of the gold speculator, the fastening upon them the domination of Mr. Rhodes. It will be our first duty to prove to our new subjects that they are regarded as fellow-citizens with ourselves within the British Empire, and are to enjoy at the earliest possible moment all the privileges of British citizenship. To this end it is essential that the first representatives of Imperial authority in the two States should be well chosen ; and more, probably, will depend upon the personality of the first administrator of the annexed territories than upon the details of the system to be administered.
With the peace a new era will begin for South Africa, and to give a new system a fair chance we shall have to start it with new men. It could not but be that the most bitter memories of the war would attach to those responsible for it, whose duty it has been to carry it through. It must be remembered that the war, or rather the policy which they believed would make war inevitable, was strongly disapproved by the colonial ministries, the authorised advisers of the Crown in South Africa. Colonial feeling has since run so strong, that to be conscientiously opposed to the policy of the war has there been accounted disloyalty. Even in England, with less excuse, there has been a sentiment of the same kind. With peace let there be an end to this nonsense! It would have been strange-we go further and say it would have been unnatural-had there not been among large numbers of British subjects of Dutch blood a feeling of some sympathy with their kinsmen in their death struggle for independence; for it was for independence that the Boers believed themselves to be fighting. The trial to the loyalty of our Dutch fellow-subjects has been a very severe one, and on the whole the vast majority of them have stood the trial well. Now we have to show that the British Colonies are not to be 'run' in the interest of a single race. We have before us the precedent of the French Canadians, a population far less fitted to blend into common nationhood with Scotchmen and Englishmen than are the Dutchmen of South Africa. In North America the situation has often required, and still requires, tactful and considerate management. There the Prime Minister of the Dominion is of French blood, a circumstance that gives the best possible proof that racial ascendency has no foothold in Canada, and that has on more than one occasion proved highly beneficial to the interests of the Empire. A real equality of citizenshipan equality that is felt, not merely proclaimed—and the founding of party divisions on other than racial grounds can only come about with time and patience. Is it too much to expect mutual forbearance on the part of South African party leaders, whether representative of the South African League or the Africander Bond? Of one thing we are certain, that it would be an evil day for the connexion of South Africa with the Empire, were Imperial authority to enter into the strife of local parties, and to lend an ear to counsels which might even seem to threaten the independence of colonial parliamentary government. When passions run high, as they must do in South Africa after the conclusion of such a war, violence is not unlikely to be represented as patriotism, of which anti-Dutch sentiment is to be the test. From these excesses statesmen have to keep the Imperial Factor' free. It will be for them to guard the independence under the Crown of colonial self-government.
The policy of equal treatment of British subjects, irrespective of race, has been amply vindicated in the history of recent troubles. Had the administration of government in the Cape Colony and Natal been in the hands of an • English oligarchy,' which would have united against it every freedom-loving citizen of Dutch race, the course of events would have been very different. We do not wish, and it is not in our power, permanently to keep any of our great self-governing colonies within the Empire by military force. The largest empire the world has ever seen is held together upon very different principles, principles from which English statesmen would not dream of departing. The only risk, such as it is, to the ultimate retention of South Africa within the Empire, lies in the permanent alienation of British citizens, whether of Dutch, foreign, or British blood, from the Imperial connexion. This is the danger which it is the great duty of our statesmen at home, and of their representatives in the various colonies, to reduce to a minimum. Patience and prudence and a good deal of moral courage will be required; but without these qualities our great Colonial Empire would not have been built up, and without them it will not be retained.
Though every week that passes evidently brings peace on our own terms nearer and nearer, little advantage is to be gained by the propounding of specific schemes for the government of the new provinces. There must be a limited period devoted to the work of restoring a sense of security and order before any permanent system
can possibly be got to work. During this period the Government will have time to study the reports and hear the views of men directly acquainted with these countries, and with a real knowledge of their inhabitants. It is all-important that Imperial authority should then be represented by some one who understands, and is understood by, the people whom we have to ruleunfortunately, for the time being, against their will-a man of firmness and of tact combined, in whose sense of justice the conquered may have as much confidence as the conquerors, and whose ambition it will be to make men forgive and ultimately to forget (if that be possible) the injuries and the memories of so terrible a war. People speak as if the adoption of some specific settlement will at once make an end of South African troubles ! A settled state of things can only come about by the reconciliation of jarring races, and complete reconciliation can only be the work of years, perhaps of generations. What is infinitely more important at present than the details of any plan of settlement is the spirit in which we set about our task. Our statesmen have declared again and again that their hands have been set to the plough,' and that they would not rest from their labour till their work had been accomplished. It would be a poor compliment to British statesmanship to suppose that its work was complete with the mere triumph of British arms. No! the end it has in view is the building up in South Africa of a great, free, self-governing dominion under the British flag, worthy to take its place side by side with the other great colonies of the Empire. When peace comes let us hear no more of “pro-Boer' or 'anti-Dutch;' and let us remember that it was for equal privileges of citizenship among the European races in South Africa that the war was in great measure fought. Great difficulties have to be surmounted before the end is attained, but that end is a noble one, and worth fighting for; and for our part we refuse to believe that it will not, with firmness and patience on the part of our statesmen, at last be won. To feel otherwise would be to think that all the bloodshed and misery of the war, so far at least as South Africa is concerned, have been in vain.
The war is, however, producing consequences of much importance outside South Africa. It has stirred to the very heart the whole Empire, which for the first time has proved its sense of its own unity, and its coinmon allegiance to the throne and flag, by taking its share in bearing the burdens and winning the laurels of war.
" What do they know of England
iho only England know ?' asked Mr. Rudyard Kipling, full of the sense of pride that cannot but fill the heart of every British traveller who visits his countrymen beyond the seas. Even home-keeping Englishmen now realise the Empire as they have never done before. The Empire has shown itself one, not only ir sentiment, but in deed--a great fact in the present an future of the world! In Great and in Greater Britain ti sinking of all differences between men of every class ar creed and political opinion in the sole desire and determin tion to make the country win at any cost of life or mone in the face of unexpected difficulties, has been the mc striking event in the politics of recent years, and has be full of instruction for others as well as for ourselves. T Queen, as usual in the fullest sympathy with her subjec has represented this sentiment of unity and patriotism men of every race who own her sovereignty. So far least the spirit of “Imperialism' is surely good.
So deep and so strong a wave of feeling cannot ha: passed over the country without leaving permanent effe behind it. For the time being party' has been annihilat but that condition of public opinion will not last. WI again party spirit revives it will largely have shaken it: