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The Orange Republic

The Orange River Colony was This is an inland country lying on the eastern side of South Africa between Cape Colony and the Transvaal &c, its area being about 50,000 square miles. Its settlement by whites was due to discontented Dutch farmers, who began to migrate from the Cape Colony in 1887. [See p. 268.] In 1848 it became formally subject to British Sovereignty, which however was abandoned in 1854. From that time it remained a Republic until 1900, when as a result of its assisting the Transvaal in the war against Great Britain, "the Orange Free State," as it had been called, became " the Orange River Colony," the annexation by Great Britain taking place on May 28, 1900.

Before 1836 the region between the Vaal and Orange rivers was a wilderness, inhabited by wandering bands of Bushmen and broken tribes of refugees from the armies of the great Zulu rulers, Chaka, Dingaan, and Maselikutse. In 1836 there was a great emigration of Boers from Cape Colony, owing to dissatisfaction with the British government. This movement, the Great Trek, had Natal for its goal; but, the British not allowing the Boers to remain in possession of this region, a part of them settled in the country north of the Orange and another in the territory north of the Vaal.

Many of the Boers, instead of crossing the Drakenberg, remained in the district of the Orange and Vaal rivers, and made the beginnings of an entirely new community. This fertile district is part of the great table-land of South Africa. It lies 5,000 feet above the sea, and has the driest and healthiest climate in the world. Here many of the Dutch settled down with their herds : and they were soon joined by English and Germain emigrants. They organized their community as a Free-State or Republic, governed by a president, elected for four years, and a parliament or volksraad, elected by the inhabitants of the various districts. One of the Boers had settled near a spring of water surrounded with rich vegetation. He called his farm Bloem-fontein, or Spring of Flowers, and here there grew up the little town which was the capital of the Orange State.

The republic thus established between the Orange and the Vaal (1842) proved a disturbing neighbor to Cape Colony. For some years the English government took no notice of these settlers : but in 1845 they made war upon the Griquas, a race of half-breeds, who had emigrated to the same neighborhood early in the 19th century. The Griquas were under English protection: and the government, surmising that the Boers would not very strictly respect the rights of the Griquas, sent troops from the Cape to defend them; and, for the purpose of enforcing English law, proclaimed the sovereignty of England over all the rich territory between the rivers Orienge' and Vaal in 1848. The boers resisted by force of arms : but they were reduced to submission: and a number of them, led by one Pretorius, disgusted at finding themselves once more subject to English law, migrated to the other side of the Vaal, as they had migrated a few years before over the Orange river.

Many more English settlers now came: but the constant troubles with the natives, and apprehension of a continual increase of the African territory of the crown, led the English government, in 1853, to cast the Orange province adrift. So little was then known in England of the matter, that only a single voice was raised in the British Parliament against this measure. Sir Charles Adderley was right; but it was no easy matter to recover what the government in those days threw away. The Orange republic had now to enter alone on a long war with the Basutos; and to annex a large tract of Basutoland to their territory. The independence of the Orange Free State was declared on February 23 and a constitution adopted on April 10, which was revised Feb. 9, 1866, May 8, 1879, and May 11, 1898. The people of the Orange afterwards petitioned, but without success, to be readmitted to the rights of British citizens.

About the year 1862 a large number of Griquas sold their farms to the Free State government and migrated in a body to the coast side of the mountains in independent Kaffraria, occupying a large tract of country there known by the name of No Man's Land. In 1866 a treaty was concluded with Moshesh, chief of the Basutos, by which a portion of the territory known as Basutoland was ceded to the Orange Free State. The boundaries agreed on by this treaty were, however, somewhat modified by the Governor of Cape Colony in 1869.

The intimate relationship of the Orange Free State and the South African Republic established a community of interests between them whenever local jealousies were put aside, and a party in each state always desired their union, or at least a close alliance. When in 1899 war broke out between Great Britain and the Transvaal, the Orange Free State cast its lot with its sister republic. This was in accordance with a treaty, arranged in April, 1897, for mutual support in case of attacks upon the independence of either.

After the first aggressive campaigns of the Boers the Orange Free State was overrun by the tide of British success, and on May 24, 1900, Field Marshal Lord Roberts, commanding the British forces, issued at Bloemfontein, the capital, a proclamation annexing the Orange Free State to the British Empire as the Orange River Colony. The Orange Free State witnessed much of the guerrilla fighting after the formal annexation of the Boer republics had been promulgated; it was repeatedly traversed by British columns in 1900-02, and its President, Steyn, was one of the last to submit to the British. Upon the conclusion of peace, May 30, 1902, the work of restoring the inmates of the detention camps to their homes was actively carried on and was completed by March, 1903. In 1907 self-government was granted and the first election was held in the same year. A large Boer majority was returned. On May 31, 1910, the Orange River Colony was consolidated in the Union of South Africa as the Province of the Orange Free State.

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Page last modified: 23-10-2012 19:12:46 ZULU