19 AUGUST 1899
Ketchwayo’s dog, Secocoene, had worried the burghers of the Transvaal, who grew weary and afraid. ‘The wrath of the Lord is upon us,’ said the stern puritans as they gazed hopelessly at the ‘dog’s’ mountain stronghold. ‘Our President is a godless one. Let us flee the anger of the Lord,’ and the Boers whose fathers had smashed the great Zulu military power and whose Free State brethren had defeated the Basutos before whom the English fled, turned away from the fight with a third-rate kafir chief because their leader, Brand, was an Agnostic and they superstitiously believed they could not gain victory beneath the banner of one bereft of God.
Theophilus Shepstone was one of Bartle Frere’s dogs. He rode down to Pretoria one day with a Union Jack and made a speech. It was a pretty British speech. He said to the Boers: ‘My friends, you are weak and exhausted and short of funds. You can’t fight just now worth a tikkey. Therefore, I annex your country. God Save the Queen.’ Out of 8,000 burghers of the State, 6,993 petitioned against the annexation, and were treated with contempt. But their hearts did not sink: the wicked English Tories had seized their country, but the virtuous English Liberals, when they came into power, would give it back. Nothing could exceed the indignation of that grand old humbug, Gladstone, at this outrage ‘on a free people.’ ‘Wacht een beetje,’ said the Boers; ‘when the great, good Gladstone comes into power he will gives us back our country.’ Meanwhile the English proceeded to civilise the Transvaal. Some of their aristocratic loafers were sent up to Pretoria, Potchefstroom, Lyndenburg, Middelburg, and other places to get drunk every night and draw salaries. I once saw an English bishop, insensible from whiskey, carried on the shoulders of kafirs into his palace; but in the old days British Church and State slept where they fell. When the young Boer, gazing on the lay and clerical roues, asked his father why he should not take his gun and shoot the vermin, the old man would say, ‘Peace, my son; these schelms are the wild men of England whom the call Toh-Ryz. When the good Liberals, who never get drunk, regain power, the pious Gladstone will chain them up and give us back our country.’ English business principles set about reforming the country. I admire English business principles. They have ruined Australia and kept poor old Canada sticking in the mud these fifty years, but they have built some fine mansions in sea-girt Albion and elevated many eminent Bill Sikeses to the British House of Peers. The Transvaal had grown poor fighting the battle of the white man in South Africa—‘the paramount power’ only bothered about asserting itself when there was gold or diamonds or territory to be grabbed—and the young English lions who were sent to rule the ‘dem ignorant Boers’ resolved to make it rich again—or, at least rich enough to pay them. So they doubled the taxation per head, overthrew the Dutch system of jurisprudence, ran the Dutch language out of the court and ran all the Boers who didn’t sing ‘Rule, Britannia,’ into jail. Then Sir Garnet Wolseley came up to Pretoria and told the Boers as long as the sun shone the Union Jack would fly over them. I will back Old Moore as a prophet against Wolseley any day.
The British Liberals came into power. ‘Now,’ said the Boers, ‘they will give us our country back.’ So they sent delegates to England who saw Mr. Gladstone and asked him to restore the independence of the country, but Mr. Gladstone was busy shooting down and imprisoning Irish men and women, so he told them to clear out—that he wasn’t responsible for anything he said while he was in opposition and that he would hold on to their country anyhow. The Boers went home and told their fellows. They gathered at Heidelberg on the 16th of December, 1880—Dingaan’s Day—and with one voice declared for liberty or death. Kruger, Pretorious, and Joubert were elected to lead them and the Vierkleur was upraised once more upon the Witwatersrandt.