Imágenes de páginas

South African Federation, under the British flag, though much to be desired, can hardly come about very rapidly.

The great successes in the field of the past six weeks have brought much nearer to our minds the immediate difficulties which will follow the re-establishment of peace. The great and rapid increase of our army, the brilliant strategy of Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener, and the never-failing valour of our troops have very quickly sufficed completely to turn the tables against the Boer forces. The relief of Kimberley, the capture of Kronje and his little army of 4,000 men, Sir Redvers Buller's entry into Ladysmith, and the capture of the Free State capital have of course convinced the whole world and our enemies themselves of the utter hopelessness of the Boer cause. It is now seriously questioned whether the two Republics have to any time had more than fifty thousand men under arms, and these constitute almost the whole manhood of the race; for among the Boer prisoners, and among the killed and wounded, there have been found numbers of old men and boys of fourteen and even less, whom excess or deficiency of years would have disqualified from service in any of the regular armies of Europe. Our enemy, let us frankly acknowledge it, has shown splendid courage, and has made an extraordinary resistance to our arms; but there could not from the beginning be a doubt in the minds of Englishmen as to the ultimate victory in a war between the two Dutch Republics of South Africa and the British Empire. How complete has been our military triumph may be judged from the fact that something like a quarter of the whole fighting strength of the nations opposed to us has been placed hors de combat; while the British troops in South Africa probably now number at least five times what remain of our foes. Under these circumstances, it seems improbable that our troops should have to encounter very much more continuous heavy fighting, though it is possible, if not very likely, that irregular and scattered resistance may be prolonged for a considerable period. Thus there is every reason to hope that peace is not far distant, that the work of our generals and our soldiers is almost done, and that the work of our statesmen will soon be resumed.

With whom then is peace to be made ? Are its terms to be agreed upon by the representatives of both belligerents, so as to bind them both, after the usual fashion in which peace is re-established after war between civilised nations? or are the terms simply to be

dictated, and then enforced, by the conqueror? Hitherto the bounds of the Empire have often enough, after successful war, been enlarged by cession; and sometimes in this way a foreign population of European blood has become, against its will, subject to Great Britain ; but in these cases the defeated sovereign has handed over to the victorious sovereign the allegiance and territory of his former subjects, and the settlement is thus in some sort regularised. Thus Canada was ceded to England, Alsace and Lorraine to Germany. In the case of the Orange Free State there has of course been no question of suzerainty,' and even as regards the Transvaal the suzerainty,' or at least the meaning of that term, has since 1884 been highly disputable. The citizens of the two States assuredly owed no allegiance to the Queen, and they cannot therefore be regarded in any legal or constitutional sense as rebels;' and we shall gain nothing by any attempt to pretend to ourselves that our rights henceforth over the Republics spring from anything but conquest pure and simple. Thus Lord Roberts, as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, was able to declare Mr. Steyn no longer President of the Free State. That conquest must be the inevitable end of the war, should have made Presidents Kruger and Steyn accept almost any terms rather than embark on it; and, on the other hand, it was the perception of this necessary result of war that made so many Englishmen, who realised the difficulties which conquest would bring to South Africa and the Empire, ready to offer or accept almost any conciliation or compromise with President Kruger which would have promised an honourable peace. The war is not now in question ; nor is the conquest. They are great and terrible facts of which account has to be taken. It is impossible to treat seriously the letters of the two Presidents asking that the independence of the two Republican States should now be recognised. The status quo ante has disappeared for ever, and the task imposed upon British statesmanship is how to make the conquest of the two Dutch Republics a success.

Never was statesmanship put to a severer trial; all the more severe in that the general public seems hardly able yet to grasp the difficulties that have to be surmounted. It is perfectly clear that henceforth the two Republics must be part of the Empire, and that citizens of these States must enjoy their rights, and liberties, and privileges, not by virtue of international agreement, but under the law and constitution of the Empire. Of this there must and can be no question. The Republics have fought for their independence, and have tought 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 tbat has on more than one occasion proved highly beneficial to the interests of the Empire. A real equality of citizenship, an 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 wbich 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

be the teatriotism", violence in South

« AnteriorContinuar »