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Art. XI.--1. Speech of the Right Hon. J. Chamberlain, M.P.,
in the House of Commons, December 7, 1900. 2. Further Correspondence relating to South Africa. [cd.
420.] Presented to Parliament, December, 1900. 3. Proclamation of Field-Marshal Lord Roberts in South •
Africa. [Cd. 426.] Presented to Parliament by Her Majesty's command, December, 1900. 4. The Great Boer War. By A. Conan Doyle. London:
Smith, Elder, & Co., 1900. 5. The Times' History of the War in South Africa, 1899–1900.
Vol. I. Edited by L. S. AMERY, Fellow of All Souls.
London : Sampson Low, Marston, & Co., 1900. 6. Two Lectures on South Africa delivered before the Philo
sophical Institute in Edinburgh, January, 1880. New Edition. With an Introduction by MARGARET FROUDE.
London : Longmans, Green, & Co., 1900. 7. Meine Erlebnisse und Erfahrungen im Boerenkriege. Von
ADALBERT GRAF STERNBERG. Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1901. The dawn of a new century would in quieter times have
afforded a natural occasion for a retrospect into the past, for the taking of stock (so to speak) of national gain and loss, for a comparison of the state of the world as we see it to-day with its condition as it was known to our ancestors a hundred years ago. The times, however, are not quiet. A new century has dawned for Englishmen amidst dark and lowering skies. The twentieth century does not, indeed, find us involved in such a life-and-death struggle as that upon which its predecessor rose; but there is no exaggeration in saying that the difficulties and dangers of the present time are greater than the nation has had to meet for very many years. They at least compel us to concentrate our attention upon the present, and to leave historical reflexion to a more convenient season.
Between themselves, the Great Powers of the world are at peace. Their attitude towards us and towards each other is
correct. It is, however, an armed peace. The European nations are armed to the teeth, the number of their populations being the only limit to the size of their armies, and their peaceful relations inter se depending far less on mutual confidence and goodwill than on the dread of the
The dorded a naturstock (so to state of
Western Germans inilippine bestablished ally out with the look
dire and incalculable consequences to which war would lead. As against Great Britain in an especial degree are concentrated the animosity and jealousy of the Continental peoples, whose passions are restrained by rulers and governments better informed and more wisely patriotic than themselves. Can peaceful relations between nations be permanently founded on mutual fears? In any case, what a blasting of the bright hopes of half a century ago does the present condition of the world betoken!
When we cast our eyes beyond Europe, what a change we perceive in the position and the policy of European and Western nations! It is strange to think of an army of 30,000 Germans in Pekin, of a great force of American soldiers in the Philippine Islands, of the Japanese as a world-power, of the French established in Madagascar, of a British army at Khartoum! Politically our statesmen have to deal with a new world, in which nations with the old names play new parts, and in whatever direction they look they find new problems presenting themselves for solution. For Englishmen, however, and for the time being, South Africa is the first thought. There our necessities are most pressing; and the longer they last the greater the danger that the South African question may lead us, in spite of Lord Salisbury's skill and caution, into the bog of European complication.
If ever in the history of the world there was a war injurious to the interests of all concerned in it, it is the war which is still raging in South Africa. By that war the two Dutch Republics have lost their dearly prized independence; their modest wealth has largely been destroyed, and a very large proportion of the whole male population has been slain or wounded, inprisoned, and transported beyond the seas. In large districts of Cape Colony and Natal a state of bitterness and extreme tension has been produced between English and Dutch that bodes very ill indeed for the future peace and welfare and the free orderly government of our African dominions. Great Britain has already spent nearly one hundred millions sterling upon the war, and the Empire has had to mourn in killed and wounded nearly twenty thousand of her bravest soldiers. Great have been the ravages of disease, and the suffering and distress caused have been beyond the reach of calculation.
On August 1, 1899, we had in South Africa a force numbering nearly ten thousand men. Since that time there have been poured in troops from home, from India,
from the colonies, and raised in South Africa itself, no fewer than a quarter of a million of soldiers. On December 1, 1900, the strength of all the forces under Lord Roberts was officially stated at 210,000, and before the month was out the new Commander-in-Chief, Lord Kitchener, was energetically asking for more! Did the people of Great Britain or the people of the Transvaal foresee, in the summer of 1899, the inevitable consequences of war? Yet surely it was demonstrable beforehand that war, if it came, between the British Empire and the South African Republic must end in the conquest of the latter State; and, on the other hand, that a war, which would inevitably become a war for the conquest of the Transvaal, would be fiercely contested, and must provoke a bitterness of hostility of Dutclimen against Englishmen throughout the whole of South Africa, which for many a long day would prove a terrible danger and burden to British rule. It is said that this war was decreed by fate; that Boer and Briton were destined to fight out the question of sovereignty in South Africa. On the Boer side it is asserted that it was the intention of the British nation, by hook or by crook, to annex the Transvaal. This they think is proved by the Jameson Raid and by the ex post facto argument drawn from the fact that Great Britain has annexed it. On the British side it is asserted that the Boers meant to drive them out of South Africa. The military power of the Boers in resisting our armies and the preparation that had been made for war are cited as conclusive proof of their aggressive intentions.
For our part, we do not believe that either nation, taken as a whole, was actuated by any such sinister intentions. Of course, with the evidence before us taken in Capetown and in London on the subject of the Jameson Raid, it is impossible to deny that very influential Englishmen in Cape Colony, in high official positions, did conspire against that State; nor, though it has not been so formally proved, is it possible to deny, on the other hand, that influential personages in the Transvaal would have liked nothing better than the overthrow of British power throughout South Africa. From the Raid onwards President Kruger and Mr. Rhodes were taken as typifying in South Africa the aims of South African Dutch and South African British ambition. Each had very influential allies, and each received the applause of the least thinking and responsible of his countrymen. The only chance of peace between the two nations was to be found in the allaying of the deep mistrust with
which they regarded each other, and the realisation by each of them of the disasters which war would most certainly bring upon both. Unfortunately, things in September 1899 had got to such a pass that few men would take a calm view of what was for the national interest. Men's pride and blood were up. Patience, conciliation, delay, were accounted words of foolishness or of faint-heartedness; and on both sides the nations had become ready to welcome the 'inevitable' war.
Whether the war was, in truth, inevitable is a question which is now only of historical interest. It is enough for us that it came, with all its attendant evils. With these we have to deal as best we can. One thing about it is, alas !. too clear-viz. that that war is not a short cut to the solution of the difficulties which were oppressing South Africa, but rather an intensification of them all. Why did we suppose that to conquer a country as large as France would be a matter of a few weeks or months at most, and be the easy work of sixty or seventy thousand men ?
* Take a community of Dutchmen? (says Dr. Conan Doyle in the first paragraph of his interesting book) of the type of those who defended themselves for fifty years against all the power of Spain at a time when Spain was the greatest Power in the world. Intermix with them a strain of those inflexible French Huguenots who gave up home and fortune, and left their country for ever at the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The product must obviously be one of the most rugged, virile, unconquerable races ever seen upon earth. Take this formidable people and train them for seven generations in constant warfare against savage men and ferocious beasts, in circumstances under which no weakling could survive, place them so that they acquire exceptional skill with weapons and in horsemanship, give them a country which is eminently suited to the tactics of the marksman, the huntsman, and the rider. Then finally put a finer temper upon their military qualities by a dour fatalistic Old Testament religion and an ardent and consuming patriotism. Combine all these qualities and all these impulses in one individual, and you have the modern Boer—the most formidable antagonist who ever crossed the path of Imperial Britain.'
All this is obvious' now, at least to the correspondents and the soldiers fresh home from the field of battle. But what is there in this paragraph of Dr. Conan Doyle's book which has not been all along familiar knowledge to every educated man? Most people knew that the Boers were the descendants of Dutchmen and Huguenots, and that they were stern and primitive Calvinists of the old school. Most men had read in the works of the late Mr. Motley and else
operations with th the B
where how bravely and persistently Dutchmen had fought for their independence against the tyranny of Spain. In 1881 we had learned, not from books but from somewhat bitter personal experience, what formidable soldiers were these very farmers of the Transvaal when fighting in a country and in conditions suited to their style of warfare. Thanks to the information of our Intelligence Department we knew with far more than ordinary accuracy the numbers of our foe, and the character and amount of his armament. Those in the highest command in our army had all had experience in South Africa. Lord Wolseley, Sir Evelyn Wood, Sir Redvers Buller, Sir William Butler, knew what the Boers were. They were intimately acquainted with the country which was to be the scene of operations. There was surely here no element of surprise. The whole facts of the case were before us. Yet no one dreamed that we were about to fight a foe more formidable than the veterans of Napoleon'! Dr. Conan Doyle must surely think the blindness of the British public no less obvious' than the heroic qualities of their antagonists! And if so there are to-day multitudes of Englishmen ready to agree with him. Did not Dr. Jameson and his merry men think that they could prick the bubble of Boer power, and by force of arms put an end to Kruger rule? The men of Johannesburg, who counted for far too much with the British public, assured us that we had but to fight a gang of corrupt officials and the interested persons in their pay. They, at least, were blind to the very obvious fact that behind President Kruger, if the subjection of the Transvaal was at stake, would be found the passionate love of independence of a free and courageous people.
It is now becoming the fashion to overrate as much as it was recently the fashion to underrate the soldiering of the Boers. For some purposes 'the embattled farmer,' able to ride and shoot well, is probably as formidable a warrior as any veteran in any European army. A force of Boers, under certain conditions, has shown itself able again and again to hold its own against our best troops. But a Boer army has the faults of its qualities. It can defend positions, it can raid on a large scale. Its mobility enables it to surprise by sudden attack the small forces which are often almost necessarily left exposed in that wide country. On the other hand, the Boers have never yet captured any town or place which has been seriously defended. When they have succeeded in repelling attack they have shown no capacity for following up their success, and pushing the
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