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Transvaal / South African Republic

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. The republic thus established between the Orange and the Vaal (1842) proved a disturbing neighbor to Cape Colony, so that after some friction it was forcibly annexed by the British in 1848. The country continued in their possession until 1854, when it was formally given up.

By the Sand River Convention, concluded in 1852, Great Britain recognized the independence of "the emigrant Boers living north of the Vaal River" and boundaries were duly established. The new state was for some years allowed to take its own course, and the only interference with its increasing prosperity came from the struggles with the natives, between whom and the Boers there was bitter enmity.

In 1861, those of the Boers who dwelt to the north of the Vaal river, formed themselves into a separate state, by the name of the South African Republic. The boers of the Transvaal established a government like that of the Orange state, with a president and volksraad. Their constitution was semi-military, the governors of the districts, elected by the volksraad, being chiefly men who had become famous as leaders of periodical raids upon the natives. Such a man was the former President Pretorius, who died in 1853, and after whom the seat of government was named Pretoria.

After the death of Pretorius, the government fell into great disorder. The Dutch provoked the usual disturbances with the natives; and it became clear that there would be no peace for the Transvaal until it was taken jn hand by Englishmen. The boers, however, hoped to avoid interference: and with the view of obtaining access to the sea for themselves, they made a treaty with the Portuguese for constructing a railway from the Republic to the Portuguese settlement of Delagoa Bay.

But matters got worse and worse: and at last in 1877 English sovereignty was proclaimed over the Transvaal. In that year some discontented burghers suggested to the British government that the Transvaal should be taken under its protection. Mistaking the appeal of a faction for national sentiment, the British Commissioner, Sir Theophilus Shepstone, declared the Republic British crown territory, and annexation was persisted in by the British government in spite of repeated appeals.

In England there was a strong party, though a minority as yet both in the country and in parliament, opposed on principle to the treatment the Transvaal had received from Lord Beaconsfield's ministry. At the head of this party was the right honourable William Ewart Gladstone, who in his electioneering speeches in Midlothian in November and December 1879 and the early months of 1880 denounced the forcible annexation of a small, though free, republic against the wishes of its people in language as vigorous as any used in South Africa. The farmers in the Transvaal and their friends everywhere took heart on reading these brilliant speeches in the newspapers, and awaited the result of the election with anxiety mingled with hope. The liberal party was returned to power with a large majority, and on the 23rd of April 1880 Mr. Gladstone became prime minister of England.

In 1880 the people revolted against the British regime. On December 13 a mass meeting was held at Heidelberg and the restoration of the independent Republic was declared. A brief campaign, in which the Boers developed remarkable fighting powers, according to methods especially adapted to the country, followed this act. The Boer victories of LaingS Nek and Ingogo were followed by the battle of Majuba Hill (Feb. 27, 1881), which resulted in the worst defeat sustained by British arms in many years. On Aug. 8, 1881, peace was concluded by the Convention of Pretoria, in which self-government was restored to the Transvaal burghers, subject to the suzerainty of the British crown. This latter reservation gave Great Britain the right to maintain a British Resident in the country and to march her armies across the territory in time of war and also the control of external relations.

The Convention of London, signed Feb. 27, 1884, omitted the suzerainty clause, and the Boers claimed that thereby Great Britain gave up all control over their affairs. The British government, on the contrary, maintained that the Convention of London was supplementary to that of Pretoria, and that the latter was in force except where directly contravened by the former.

In the years 1881-93 several events occurred which reacted upon the relations of Great Britain and the South African Republic. The first of these was the formation in Cape Colony of the Afrikander Bond, with a platform calling for a union of European races in South Africa on a basis of South African nationality and independence. This movement increased the dislike of the British government to the development of any strong, independent power in the neighborhood of the British South African possessions. The advance of the English into Mashonaland and Matabeleland, which the Boers had coveted and which hemmed them in, was to them an added irritation; and the climax was reached in the aggressive attitude of the British South Africa Company, which held rights of exploitation and administration in the new British territories.

The discovery of gold in the Transvaal in 1884 opened a new and troubled era. Hitherto the country hod been agricultural and rural, with a homogeneous population. Now there was a sudden influx of mining men, promoters, and adventurers of all nations. In the Witwatersrand was founded the populous mining city of Johannesburg, inhabited very largely by these Uitlanders, or outlanders. The Boers felt that the primitive life they had wished to preserve was invaded, circumscribed, and likely to be overwhelmed. They therefore sought to restrict the privileges of citizenship in order to retain the political control in their own hands. This led to constant friction and to attempts to secure British intervention.

In the autumn of 1895 a plan was arranged between the leaders of the British South Africa Company Cecil Rhodes, his colleague, Mr. Beit, and Dr. Jameson, administrator of Rhodesia on the one hand, and several leaders of the Uitlanders Lionel Phillips, Charles Leonard, and John Hays Hammond representing them on the other, for an armed raid into the Transvaal from Rhodesia for the purpose of bringing about by a display of force the reforms desired. Dr. Jameson made it understood finally that he should act in behalf of the British supremacy. The Johannesburg committee did not apparently intend to overthrow the government, and when this was known sought to stay action while they issued a manifesto calling for the desired reforms.

Jameson, disregarding their warning, entered the Transvaal December 29 with 600 men. He was defeated, surrounded, and obliged to surrender (Jan. 2, 1896). The Transvaal government turned the prisoners over to the British government for trial. They were convicted in England and received light sentences. Four of the Johannesburg leaders were condemned to death by the Transvaal courts, but this was commuted to a heavy fine. The raid caused a great excitement and assumed international importance. It brought the agitation and the bitter feeling between the two countries to an acute stage. The controversy, concealing under diplomatic phraseology much irritation on both sides, continued for some time longer. War broke out in November, 1899 (see South African Wab), and ended in May, 1902. As a result the Boer republics were incorporated in the British Empire. The protracted struggle left the Transvaal burghers in a ruined condition, and the first necessity was to restore the rural population to their homes. Many Boers preferred exile to living under the British crown, and there was a considerable emigration in the following years to German Southwest Africa, Argentina, Mexico, and the United States.

The most prominent question of the years immediately following the war was connected with the supposed difficulty of obtaining an adequate supply of native labor for the Rand mines. An ordinance providing for the importation of Chinese laborers was nevertheless issued by the Legislative Council in February, 1904, and the first consignment of coolies arrived in June. By the end of 1905 about 50,000 Chinese had been brought to the Rand. The hardships of the compound system to which the laborers were subjected resulted in constant, successful attempts at escape, and wandering bands of Chinese soon became a serious menace to life and property in the Rand section.

The prospect of the grant of representative government led, in 1905, to the rise of political parties, including the Progressive Association which stood for the maintenance of complete British ascendency, the Responsible Government Association, and Het Volk representing the Boer element. The tremendous victory gained in Great Britain by the Liberals in the general election of January, 1906, was due in very large degree to the general abhorrence for the system of Chinese "servitude" established in the Transvaal.

On July 31, 1906, the Liberal government announced a new constitution for the colony. The first election took place in February, 1907. The conciliatory spirit in which the new government entered upon its duties was shown in a speech of General Botha, who became the first Premier, outlining his programme at a banquet given in its honor at Pretoria in March. He declared that the British government and people had, by the grant of a free constitution, trusted the people of the Transvaal in a manner unequaled in history and that it was impossible for the Boers ever to forget such generosity. His cabinet would do its best to create a united nation, in which one section would not regard the other with contempt or distrust.

As soon as responsible government was established in the Orange River Colony, the cabinet would begin to work towards a union of all South Africa. He denied that the government was hostile to the mining interests, but declared its opposition to any combination of corporations aiming at monopolizing portions of the country. No extreme measures would be taken against the employment of Chinese labor, and the natives would also be treated fairly. As regards education, Dutchspeaking and English-speaking children would be taught, up to a certain point, each in his own language.

A great question which agitated the Transvaal was the immigration of Hindus, who came in large numbers to work in the mines. In order to maintain "white supremacy," severe immigration and domicile laws were enacted and many Hindus were compelled to leave the country. On May 31, 1910, the Transvaal was united with Cape of Good Hope, Natal, and the Orange Free State to form the new Union of South Africa, and Pretoria was made the capital and the seat of government of the new federal union.





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