« AnteriorContinuar »
the Dog-fiend Cerberus to the raid of Hercules was an act of opposition to the Divine Will; or to find a Florentine Christian made to say, as in the thirteenth canto, that his native city is being punished by Mars for displacing him as her patron in favour of St. John Baptist; or to read, as in the thirty-first Canto, that Jupiter still reigns and threatens the giants with his thunder. This confusion dominates the whole of the first two parts of the Sacred Drama. Satan and Briareus, Nimrod and Niobe, Saul and Arachne, are found in company together as examples of pride going before a fall. The sayings and narratives of Pagan poets, orators, and historians are quoted or mentioned, as if they were of equal value and importance, for the instruction of Christian souls striving in Purgatory to purify themselves from their besetting sins, not merely with the Scriptures of the Old Testament, but with the most sacred and most authoritative books of the New Testament. Angel voices proclaim for their edification, at the same time and in the same tones, texts from Cicero de Amicitia and from the Gospel according to St. Luke. The utterances of the tragic hero Pylades take rank with those of the Virgin, and even of her son himself in the Sermon on the Mount. The Virgin herself is classed with Peisistratus as an example of selfrestraint, and with Cæsar as an example of energetic activity. But perhaps the most remarkable Pagan episode in the Sacred Drama is Virgil's statement respecting the demi-goddess Fortune in the seventh canto of the Hell.
My son,' he said to Dante, as they stood side by side and gazed upon the ghastly dance of the misers and prodigals, ‘now canst thou see the shortlived mockery of those possessions which are intrusted to Fortune, and for which the human race thus wrangles.' And, in reply to Dante's inquiry: What is this Fortune, which has the goods of the world in its clutches ? ' he tells him that she is a really existing Supernatural Being, in the nature of a goddess or demi-goddess, using these remarkable words :
He whose knowledge surpasses all made the heavens, and gave them that which so directs them that every part illuminates every part, distributing equally the light. And so likewise for the splendours of this world He appointed a general administratrix and leader, who should from time to time transfer these vain possessions from one race to another and from one family to another, so that it is not within the limits of the wit of man to prevent it. This is the reason why one nation is in power and another in decay. It results from her decree, which is concealed like the snake in the grass (not, as Vr. Vernon renders it, “the decree of her who is hidden like a snake in the grass '--'lo giudicio di costei, che è occulto '—it is the decree, not Fortune herself, that is concealed]. Your knowledge has no means of opposing her. She foresees, decrees, and exercises her sovereignty as the other Gods do theirs. There is no respite to the changes which she makes. It is necessary for her to be swift, for those whose turn has arrived come so thickly before her. This is she who is so greatly execrated even by those who ought to give ber praise, but who perversely give her blame and ill repute. But she ever remains blessed, and takes no heed of that. Untroubled, she, with the other firstlings of creation, revolves her wheel, and rejoices in her blessedness.
There is not a word in this that might not have been written 300 years, or, for the matter of that, 4,000 years, before Christ. Nothing more genuinely Pagan can be found in any similar writing by any pre-Christian writer of antiquity. It is the first great patch of Paganism with which the reader of the Sacred Drama meets as he peruses that poem; and the first time that he reads it he is astounded to find, in a writer of that date and on those topics, so near an approach to Polytheism. It is not until he has obtained a wider and deeper knowledge of Dante's works, in prose as well as in verse, that he sees that it is necessary, for a true appreciation of his psychology, to take full account of his Paganism as well as of his Christianity. He was a sincere and loyal son of the Church ; but he was, at the same time, an enthusiastic student of the ancient Italian authors. And he was something more than a student of them. They were to him a revelation, a gospel. He believed in what they said. He realised and assimilated their narratives and their doctrines, as he did those of the evangelists and apostles, so that they became to him quite as much a part of his spiritual nature as the Summa Theologiæ or the text of the Vulgate. Indeed, it almost appears as if he considered it as necessary for true godliness, if not for holiness, to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the classics as the Scriptures. He seems, to vary a celebrated saying, to have sought to call in the old world to redress the spiritual balance of the new.
D. R. FEARON.
THE REAL GRIEVANCES OF THE
When I made up my mind to pay a short visit to South Africa, I had not the slightest intention of writing on the subject of the Transvaal, or on any African subject whatever ; but before I started several of my friends, both in the House of Commons and others, asked me to try and get information as to the relations between the Boer Government and the gold industry ; what they said in effect was this :
We are puzzled by the conflicting accounts we hear : we are told on the one hand that the troubles which have afflicted the gold industry in the Transvaal are not in any way due to the Government. The people interested have brought all these troubles on themselves by mismanagement and over-capitalisation; their grievances are imaginary or sentimental, and they are trying to put the blame of their own mistakes, or worse, on to the Government. On the other hand, we are told that if the Transvaal had been governed decently and in accordance with the most commonplace requirements of modern civilisation, many mines would be now paying which it is now impossible to work; the population of the Transvaal would be double what it is now, and prosperity would reign where distress and poverty are prevalent—in fact, that the present Government in the Transvaal is a disgrace to civilisation. We want to know the real facts of the case. Do try and discover the truth.
During a stay of some weeks at Johannesburg I had every opportunity of studying the facts. All information was placed at my disposal, both sides of the question were laid before me, and I have formed definite opinions on the subject.
Let us now try to examine how far the grievances are imaginary and sentimental, or real and practical.
1. POLITICAL RIGHTS.
We all know how the chapter on Snakes in Ireland began and ended with the words, . There are no snakes in Ireland. Well, the catalogue of the political rights of all the inhabitants of the Transvaal, except a small section of them, begins and ends with the words, They have no political rights.' Political power is entirely in the hands of a small clique, the franchise being confined almost entirely to the Dutch farmers, living to a great extent in remote districts, a large proportion of whom can neither read nor write. Now many different ideas have prevailed in modern times as to who shall be the holders of political power. In most cases, especially in modern republics, it is considered that all householders or ratepayers of full age, who have incurred no personal disability, shall have a right to vote, and that the course of government shall be guided by the views of the majority.
But in the Transvaal the vast majority have no votes; the adult male white population numbers over 60,000, and of these only about 22,000 have votes. It is evident that the word 'republic' is entirely a misnomer. The Transvaal is no more a republic in the true sense of the word than are the empires of Russia and Germany, and a constitutional monarchy like that of England has very much more of the character of a true republic than the constitution of the Transvaal. It is in effect an oligarchy: all power is in the hands of a privileged few, who act as if they had a divine right to dispose of the fortunes and properties of the majority exactly as they think fit.
Power, we read in history, has often been in the hands of a select few, and various qualifications have been thought to justify the monopoly of it.
At one time it was the possession of land, but this is not the case here. On the basis of land value belonging to private individuals, more than half belongs to the Uitlanders.
Those who have no votes hold nearly all the mines, houses, mercantile businesses, freeholds in town, &c. Probably of the wealth of the country not nearly one-tenth is possessed by the holders of political power. Some people would say the best educated should Tule. Apply this test.
The Boer farmers, who have the majority of the votes, are notoriously ill educated; not only are many of them unable to read and write, but they live in remote districts, and take no interest in any but local affairs. On the Rand there are many of the most intelligent citizens the world can produce, belonging to many nationsAmericans, Germans, French and Austrians, as well as English, Engineers and chemists, bankers, financiers, men engaged in large mercantile businesses—all these are considered unfit to take any share in public business in the Transvaal. You have accordingly an extremely curious and abnormal state of things. You have the wealth, the education, the energy, the knowledge of the world, the large majority in numbers of the white population on one side, and a small minority, possessing neither education nor wealth nor knowledge of affairs on the other, who claim a divine right to govern the majority, and to dispose of their property as they please.
And this minority is not even united. It is well known that many of them disapprove entirely of the present Government. In fact, it is believed that, deducting the army of officials whose daily
VOL. XLIII-No. 252
bread depends on the favour of the Government, and who form an enormous electioneering force, there would be a clear majority against the Government. At any rate it is evident that the country is governed by a fraction, large or small, of a minority. Truly a state of unstable equilibrium, a pyramid balanced on its apex! Still, it may be objected, it is possible that though there may seem to be great injustice in the way the Government is chosen, yet their laws and their administration are so good that there would be nothing gained by a change.'
I admit at once that if the Boer Government could show that, as compared with the average of modern Governments, the inhabitants of the country would have nothing to gain by a change; that the laws were wise and well administered, the taxation light, and the conditions under which the industries of the country were carried on as favourable as in the majority of civilised countries; then I should agree that the desire for equal political rights was, though a natural wish, yet mainly a sentimental one.
But that brings us to the question : Are the conditions of life worse under Boer rule than they are elsewhere, and than they should be ?
To answer this we must consider the complaints of the Uitlanders seriatim.
1. Taxation.—The grievance with regard to taxation is that the Government is alleged to exact from the people an annual sum far in excess of what would be necessary to carry on the administration of the country according to the most civilised ideas; in fact, that while in 1896 the sum of 3,584,2351. 168. 7d. was spent by the Government, a sum of 1,500,0001. ought to have sufficed, or at any rate that 2,000,0001, ought to have been far more than sufficient. If that is correct, then, a sum largely exceeding a million and a half sterling was raised and spent which ought to have remained in the pockets of the people. Let us see what is spent by the three other States of South Africa, which are certainly not worse governed than the Transvaal. To compare this expenditure we must of course deduct working expenditure on railways. The railways in Natal and Cape Colony belong to the Government, are worked by them, and all the working expenditure and maintenance of the railways appears in their budget. The Transvaal Government does not own or work the railways, and therefore no working or maintenance expenses are included in their accounts. We must also, to make a fair comparison, exclude annual interest on debt; a large portion of the debt of Natal and the Cape Colony having been raised for the purpose of making railways and other productive works, the interest on which is paid for out of the profits. The expenditure therefore given below includes the whole yearly expenditure of these four States, working