20 JANUARY 1900
One Sunday evening a couple of years ago an English acquaintance of mine in Johannesburg called round to me. ‘There is a concert to-night at the Wanderers’,’ quoth he. ‘You will like it. They intend to play and sing the National Anthems of all the nations. Come along.’ So I went.
It was pleasant to spend a Sunday evening at the Wanderers’, and that night the audience was dense and cosmopolitan, Dutch, German, French, Russian, Irish, Italian, Austrian, American, Spanish, Portuguese, British—all were there. The orchestra tuned up, up went the Transvaal flag, a vocalist came up on the platform, and he began singing the Volkslied.
Then from the civilised Britishers burst forth a storm of hissing, hooting, and catcalls. I looked at the Dutchmen. Their lips were curled in scorn and contempt, but they sat in silence, until the singer had finished, when they cheered lustily, and all the uitlanders whom Providence had penalised by not making British joined in the applause. Following the Volkslied; we had the ‘Watch on the Rhine.’ Once again the pioneers of civilisation hissed and hooted. The Germans sat contemptuously quiet until the close of the song. Then came the Merseillaise, and British catcalls. The Frenchmen disdained to notice the blackguards. The Spanish anthem was hooted by the British—but the Americans, who were at the time at war with Spain, listened quietly. The American anthem followed, and was received with howls by the Britishers, but no Spaniard raised his voice against it. So, too, was it with every anthem played—the British howled and hooted—until the band struck up ‘God Save the Queen.’
And then—then—the Imperial Race cheered itself hoarse—and not a hiss was heard in the place. The Britishers had insulted every free nation that night, but Russian, French, and German, Spaniard, American, and Italian sat quietly listening to the anthem of the Blackguard nation with scorn and contempt written on their faces.
My companion’s face was burning red. As we left the grounds he said to me—and his voice was hoarse—‘I am ashamed—I will be ashamed all my life—that I am an Englishman.’
It is to introduce British civilisation, British customs, and British manners to the benighted Transvaalers that England is spending her blood and treasure to-day. Cardinal Vaughan tells us to pray for the triumph of British civilisation and Christianity. I prefer the rugged Boer barbarism which offers offence and insult to no man on account of his nationality or religion. I have seen an English bishop in Africa, helplessly drunk, carried across the street to his house by four Kafirs; I have seen a minister of the Church of England lying drunk on the floor of a billiard room; I have known an English missionary to let the Kafirs under his charge starve to death in order that he might pocket £1000; I have seen Englishmen in Johannesburg dragging in triumphal procession through the streets a woman whose obscene acting and singing in that town had led to her being interdicted from appearing on a public stage by the Transvaal Government, and I have seen six gallant Englishmen knocking down in the streets of Pretoria and kicking a Dutch policeman to the shouts of ‘God Save the Queen’ and ‘Rule Britannia!’—and then running away when two Norwegians and an Irishman came to his assistance. But when the Union Jack is hoisted above Pretoria the ignorant Boer will be taught what British civilisation means. Meantime, he trusts in God and the Mauser to keep it out as long as he can.