« PreviousContinue »
SOME ASPECTS OF THE CAPE ELECTIONS.
To the Editor of the National Review.
SIR,--It is worth while for Englishmen, though they live 6000 miles away
from Cape Colony, to examine with some care the elections which have just taken place there, and which, while replacing one set of Ministers by another, have a deep significance as the moral result of the War which Great Britain fought to uphold her ideals in South Africa.
Elections in a country so lately disturbed by rebellion are undesirable, and it will be a permanent slur on the Imperial authorities that they had not the courage to suspend the Cape Constitution during hostilities and for a time afterwards. It was a cruel thing to leave a country to be hag-ridden by agitators of the worst kind when feelings were running high, and when political bitterness in the slowly vanquished Dutch led to so much unnecessary misery.
The late Ministry came into power in June 1900, when Mr. Schreiner found that he could not persuade the rank and file of the Bond party to vote for the Treason Bill, which he thought necessary in order that the severity of the old Cape law might be tempered to the avowed rebel. Mr. Schreiner had, up to that time, no doubt persuaded his party to do more than one would have expected. Before the outbreak of hostilities he had held that Cape Colony could be neutral in a war waged between Great Britain and the two Republics, and in the disappointment of finding that his Colony was attacked by the enemies of the British Empire, he unwillingly consented to proclaim martial law over districts where fighting was actually going on. He tried to reconcile the irreconcilable rôles of sympathy to the two Republics in their struggle and friendship for the rebels in Cape Colony, with his duty as a Minister of the Crown. He is an able man and incapable of deliberate betrayal, but his policy was doomed to failure. His party were many of them out on commando fighting us, and some of his Ministers were not above agitating in the country against Great Britain. This being so, one only wonders how it was that Mr. Schreiner managed to keep in office for eight months with war going on and the rude facts of life knocking away his theories in every direction.
In June 1900 the retired Ministry took office under the premiership of Sir Gordon Sprigg. The Premiership of Sir James Rose Innes would have been more acceptable to the Progressive party, but Sir Gordon would not give way, and Sir James was willing to waive his claim. This arrangement did not last long, for Sir James was made Chief Justice of the Transvaal soon after, and the Sprigg Cabinet lost their only man of conspicuous ability. There remained
Dr. Smartt, a stalwart and capable administrator; Mr. Graham, a good fellow,
ut not otherwise a remarkable man ; and the rest, who were ciphers, entirely ruled by their tenacious little Premier.
When the word "tenacious" is applied to Sir Gordon Sprigg it must be understood to mean one thing only—tenacity to office : upon all other questions he has boxed the compass many times—but his love of office exceeds anything we have seen in Great Britain.
This Ministry managed to keep on its feet without outward difficulties until the Spring of 1902, when the Progressive party, by which it had been put and kept in power came tardily to the right conclusion that times of armed rebellion are no times for the meeting of Parliament, and of the discussions which must follow. They were alarmed, too, at the state of the finances of the Colony, which they felt were not in capable hands, and at a Caucus meeting they summoned Sir Gordon to recommend suspension of the Constitution. He refused ; the idea of giving up office was abhorrent to him. On this his able Commissioner of Railways, Dr. Smartt, resigned, and the Progressives informed their chief that they could no longer support his Ministry. Three courses were open to Sir Gordon: (1) to recommend suspension ; (2) to resign and allow a Bond Ministry to be formed ; (3) or to accept support from the Bond on any terms they were ready to give. He chose this latter alternative, and for his last year and a half of office he acted entirely with the people he bad been elected to oppose, thus throwing the whole weight of the Government machine against the already much-tried Loyalists. At home it is difficult to realise how much that means ; but in Cape Colony, where the resident magistrates have great power and at the same time have to please their masters, it is no light thing to have the Bond ruling the Government. And in this doubly evil case the Bond had all the power and none of the outward responsibility.
The effect of this betrayal on the Progressive party was to make them bitterly angry-not with their old opponents, but with the men who had sold them, and finding that in the House of Assembly they were perfectly powerless, they set themselves to organise in the country. The leaders, Jameson, Walton, Crewe, and Smartt were indefatigable; they went systematically round the country with a simple and really progressive programme: Education, Commerce, Equitable Redistribution, and Peace under British supremacy. They went to every native location of any importance (and what a different political note does this give an election to anything in the Mother Country !) with the words, first spoken by Mr. Rhodes and adopted ever since by his followers, "equal rights for all civilised men." It is typical of the methods of the anti-British party that the South African News, the principal Bond organ, quoted this as “equal rights for all white"men, and then when the "mistake" had been well copied by the native press said, "it was a printer's error ! »
The good faith and straightforwardness with which our men, the Progressive Leaders, have conducted this campaign should be a source of satisfaction to every one of British race. Floods of calumny have been poured upon them, no lie has been too bad to tell about them or their party ; and yet, in spite of election heat, they have steadily kept to the great political issues, progress under the Union Jack for all men, and have seldom allowed themselves to be led away by the irrelevant vituperation with which they were greeted. Nor have they, during the whole of this contest, said anything which could offend the Dutch in their nationality ; quietly and steadily they have worked at the political emancipation of their country from ignorance and oppression. This persistent pursuit of their aim has been greatly due to the personality of Dr.
Jameson, their leader. He has the tenacity of the Lowland Scot, and he has inspired his party with a deep belief in his single-minded honesty of purpose. Some one once said of him that he was “ambidextrous," that both men and women of all classes liked him ; that is true. The toughest Boer thaws a little before his kindly personality when he is brought into contact with him. These then were the factors on the British side, that they knew their own minds, were moderate and just, and believed in their leader. Against this must be set such a formidable mountain of difficulties that one wonders how the victory was gained.
The curse of the Cape Parliament has for years been the mugwump—the man who would put his vote up to auction to the highest political bidder, and who— when there were five or six of them—could generally decide the fate of a Bill. In the last Parliament there were the usual four or five, and Mr. Hofmeyr, with his customary shrewdness, realised that with a large percentage of his own voters disqualified by their rebellion, the more this party could be increased, the more the Progressives would be disabled. There were other chances for the Bond -not only were a certain number of mugwumps sure to stand for British seats, but by judicious play with the labour agitators, support was hoped for from British workmen, which would be taken from the official Progressive candidates. The view the Dutchmen took of “non-party” candidates when they stood against the official Bond nominees is shown by their placing Mr. Schreiner, their former leader, at the bottom of the poll because he stood for a Bond seat as an independent. The third chance was the native vote, which plays so large a part in Cape Colony.
Nothing gives a better illustration of the power of Mr. Hofmeyr and his lieutenants over the electorate than the attitude they have recently taken up on the native question—no more talk about “niggers” and “strop,” but on a sudden the most extreme civility and even a request (which was refused) to the native editor of Imvo (the brown man's chief organ) to stand as a Bond candidate for Parliament! This resolution to treat the natives like human beings was too sudden to have much effect, and the native vote seems not to have been much affected by it; but the natives will, one hopes, remember it next time a demand for repressive legislation is made by the Bond.
Besides all these “off” chances, Mr. Hofmeyr had on his side the solid phalanx of the obedient Bond vote shepherded by the parson.
A few months before the election, probably with a view to stirring up race feeling, the Dutch Reformed Church held a synod in Cape Town. This was the occasion of a most remarkable outburst of hatred towards England. Bloodcurdling stories were told of the brutality of British soldiers. Mothers were urged to bring up their children in the knowledge of these outrages, bitter complaints were made to a sympathetic audience that English was taught at all in the schools, and (most curious of all) objection was made to young Dutch women becoming hospital nurses, on the ground that there was no entirely Dutch hospital, and that they might get to know English people. No moderating voice was raised to appeal for peace—the audience and speakers were at one, indeed it is probable that as the cue of the Bond Parliamentary leaders is to lie low about race hatred until they have got their rebel voters back on the register, the Dutch Reformed Church were encouraged to stir up all the feeling they could so as to cheer up the back country farmers and make amends for a fairly tame political programme.
It cannot be too often insisted that the Dutchman has a born understanding the use of the political machine. Bond leaders, clergy, and rank and file, all
are organised and obedient. Did a pastor bid his flock be loyal during the war, and beg them not to rebel-straightway he was judged, and if he would not recant, dismissed. Does a member of Parliament, however eminent, claim the smallest independence, he is got rid of at once-no one stands between him and
he receives no pity and no one is indulgent. Such a thing as a cave" in the Bond party is unthinkable, they know too well the value of an unbroken front. We may therefore imagine the pressure which is brought to bear upon the loyal Dutch-and there are a good fewand the honour in which we should all hold them for the part they have played in this last difficult year. The victory which Great Britain has won at the polls will strengthen their position enormously, and will bring many of the " less courageous” to our side--more especially owing to the defeat of the principal Parliamentary mischief-makers, Messrs. Merriman and Sauer, whom Mr. Hofmeyr leaves to bear the public odium of his policy, so that he may appear conspicuously moderate himself on his rare public appearances. We have always to remember to look behind the Parliamentary puppets to the arch intriguer who is the soul of the anti-British policy in South Africa—and while holding the action of Messrs. Merriman and Sauer in proper detestationnever to forget that they are only Mr. Hofmeyr's spokesmen-sometimes franker in the heat of a contest * than he would think desirable, but none the less "the voice is the voice of Jacob,” however he may disguise himself. He stands for alienation of our Colony from British ties and ideals, and it is Mr. Hofmeyr who has been defeated at the polls, although his name was perhaps hardly mentioned during the contest.
For behind the Progressive leaders who have well and loyally fought and won our battle, and the Bond Parliamentarians who have been defeated, stand the two great opposing principles which confronted each other during the war, and which now must be fought over again in peace-peace and progress under the British flag, or a federated Republican group of Dutch dominated States, and for this last ideal Mr. Hofmeyr is the man to whom anti-British South Africa turns.
This victory, therefore, is no small one. It has been won for us by Dr. Jameson, and is the moral result of seven years' steadfast South African policy, under which an independent British party has been formed for the first time in the history of Cape Colony. That permanent asset is now ours, after what labour and suffering we all know. The people of Great Britain must never again allow the mischief-makers of Mr. Hofmeyr's gang, or those of his kidney at home, to mislead them about the true issues on which elections are fought in South Africa.
I am, &c.,
* On February 1 at Aliwal North Mr. Sauer said: “There had been no country in which there had been so many rebellions as Scotland and those rebellions had done a great deal of good."
No. 255.—May 1904
EPISODES OF THE MONTH
Few events in our time have caused such genuine satisfaction
throughout all classes of the community as the The
Anglo-French Agreement, which clears away our Emancipation long-standing difficulties with France. Although
' of England.
there is not that sustained study of foreign policy in this country which characterises certain Continental nations, the sound political instinct of the average Englishman enables him to grasp the profound importance of this new departure, and its wider international aspects contribute to its popularity no less than its settlement of current controversies. The Foreign Office was exasperatingly slow in realising that public opinion was in revolt against the Anglo-German régime, which seemed to the unthinking official world to offer the line of least resistance, and which was consequently pursued year after year through much tribulation and humiliation. Downing Street was content to be the phonograph of the Wilhelmstrasse. It required the outbursts of popular indignation which make the words “Venezuela" and “Baghdad" so unpleasant to official ears, before our Ministers grasped the fact that the days of Anglo-Germanism were numbered. It must be said to the credit of Lord Lansdowne and his advisers, that having once appreciated the necessity for a new policy, they did the thing handsomely, and they are to be warmly congratulated on the whole spirit and temper of their present handiwork. The Anglo-French Agreement consummates the emancipation of England from the German yoke which commenced last year, and we venture to say it affords a complete vindication of those who in season and out of season have pressed