15 JULY 1899
Writing some weeks ago I asserted my opinion that England would not fight the Transvaal. Despite the dispatch of dumdum bullets to the Cape and the arrival of British war-vessels in Delagoa Bay I am still convinced that England does not mean war. Mr. Chamberlain alone means it, since he longs to ‘feed fat his ancient grudge’ on the statesman who rules the South African Republic. Lord Salisbury and his other colleagues are as desirous as the British Colonial Secretary to destroy the independence of the Republic. They recognize the danger to British supremacy in Africa which it constitutes; but they recognise as well the danger involved in declaring what, stripped of its disguise, means a war to enslave the Dutch race in Africa. They are playing for the death of Kruger, already a man bowed with years, when they hope circumstances and cunning may combine to secure the destruction of the Transvaal without the necessity of war.
It is, however, my opinion now that the Transvaal should, if its franchise proposals are rejected by England, take the initiative and declare war on England. The Conservative Cabinet is restraining Mr. Chamberlain through no love of justice. The Boers are ready to take the field; the English are not. The Boers have at the head of their state the ablest man South Africa has produced and one whose name arouses all their enthusiasm. Schalk Burger is, perhaps, the ablest Transvaaler next to Kruger, but he could neither inspire the confidence nor enthusiasm Oom Paul can amongst the burghers and workingmen uitlanders.
As Barney Barnato used to say, ‘If you know a man intends to hit you, hit him first.’ If the Boers do not force the war now they may miss a good opportunity. The Free State is with them, the Cape is with them, and five-sixths of the decent uitlanders are with them.
And here let me point out that the Dublin Press, which professes to sympathise with the Transvaal, is displaying stupidity in denouncing the uitlanders—or as they persist in spelling the word, for some mysterious reason, ‘Outlanders.’ The great majority of the uitlanders are favourable to the Boers and strongly opposed to the introduction of the British. The uitlanders opposed to the Boer Government consist of (1) the English and Jewish capitalists (2) the ‘Peruvians,’ or Russian Jews, (3) the rowdies and thieves of Johannesburg and (4) a minority of Britishers who pine to ‘wipe out’ Majuba. To jumble up with these people the great body of the respectable workingmen of the Rand is insulting and absurd.
I am making no assertions on second-hand authority. I know the Rand from end to end, and I know no more hypocritical pretence could be put forward than that the alien population is oppressed by and opposed to the Boers. President Kruger has consistently been the friend of the workingman, and this has earned him the hatred of the English and Jewish mineowners. ‘The rich,’ said Oom Paul some years ago, ‘are able to take care of themselves, but I am responsible to God for the poor.’ And he has genuinely worked on that idea. On his initiative the Raad passed a Bill for the protection of the mineworkers. The capitalists met it by compelling their employes to sign a document ‘of their own free will and accord’ renouncing their rights under the Protection Law. At the present moment on nine-tenths of the mines of the Rand the employe must renounce his legal rights or be dismissed from his employment.
Again, President Kruger introduced a stringent Employers’ Liability Bill into the Raad. The capitalist gathered their and forced them to petition against it. The majority of the Boer legislators thereupon, indignant at the lack of independence exhibited by those whom it was designed to benefit, refused to allow the Bill to become law. There is, perhaps, no more heartless set of scoundrels in any part of the world than the rich men of the Rand. Less than two years ago when uitlanders were dying of hunger in the back streets of Johannesburg and every day some poor fellow was shooting or hanging himself in Fordsburg a movement was started to provided at least food for the hungry. The workingmen responded generously, but the capitalists kept their pockets closed. I have seen in those days homeless and starving men watching from the corners where they crouched drunken millionaires reeling through the streets or driving out with abandoned women in their carriages.
Let the Irish people learn the truth about the Transvaal. Let them know that in nine-tenths of the charges and allegations made against its Government there is not an iota of truth. Let the cowardly, brutal, and lying Press of England shriek about the woes of the vile ‘Peruvians’ (all British subjects by the way, since any Jew, swindler, or murderer can buy for a small sum ‘the full right and title’ of a Britisher in South Africa), the sufferings of the millionaires, and the wrongs of the thieves and assassins who lurk each night near Pretoria Bridge and the ‘lower end of Commissioner-street’ with their sandbags and knives; but for the honour of Ireland let no Irish paper, Orange or Green, join in the shriek. The other day an Africander peacemaker was hooted by the gang of ex-convicts, ex-I.D.B.’s, and sharpers who form the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. This oppressed class wants war. Give it to them, Joubert, and send on plenty of rope to the workingmen of the Rand.
In this (Thursday) morning’s newspapers I read that Johannesburg is terrorised by the thief-and-assassin allied of England. The watchman of the Langlaagte Estate Gold Mine has been murdered by them. I knew the man well. He was a decent old man, an English Africander named Slade. And the damnable British Government has secured the disarming of the Johannesburg police.