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South Africa: Aftermath of the Boer War

  • Ronald Hyam

Abstract

Gladstone had spoken of the South African question in 1881 as ‘the one great unsolved, perhaps unsolvable problem of our colonial system’. This strain of pessimism was never far away from Liberal thinking about South Africa. Long before the end of the nineteenth century, there was an underlying realisation that South Africa had already receded beyond imperial control. It was for this reason that Liberals regarded Sir Alfred Milner as a dangerous high commissioner (1897–1905). The day had long passed when a policy of vigour could be safely indulged. Persistence in such a course must lead inevitably to the creation of another Ireland, a Teutonic not a Celtic Ireland. Any attempt to repeat the policy of ‘the pale’ in Ireland was foredoomed to failure because of the numerical preponderance of the Dutch.1

Keywords

Prime Minister Land Settlement Responsible Government British Government Representative Government 
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Footnotes

  1. 1.
    The Dutch were more than 54% of the white population in 1911. See L. M. Thompson, Unification of South Africa (1960), p. 498.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    J. Bryce, Impressions of South Africa (3rd ed., 1899), pp. x–xi, xliii; Asq. 9/95, Ripon to Asquith 29 Dec 97.Google Scholar
  3. 1.
    C. Dilke, Problems of Greater Britain (1890), i, 543.Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    T. Walrond (ed.), Letters and Journals of James, 8th earl of Elgin (1872).Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    E. Lyttelton, Alfred Lyttelton (1917).Google Scholar
  6. 2.
    Milner was convinced that Chinese were necessary, because his reconstruction programme would collapse if mining profits did not increase, and because it was necessary to anticipate an alliance of British and Boers in demanding compulsory labour for Africans, and white self-government to put it into force (G. H. Le May, British supremacy in South Africa, 1899–1907 (1965), p. 161). In the event, the Chinese Labour episode ended Milner’s personal immunity from criticism by Liberal Imperialist leaders, divided the British in the Transvaal and provided the occasion for the return of the Boers to organised politics (ibid. p. 158).Google Scholar
  7. 1.
    Viscount Samuel, Memoirs (1945), p. 46.Google Scholar
  8. 3.
    CB. 41214/35–7; E to CB 28 Dec 05, partly quoted in J. A. Spender, Life of Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, ii (1923), 230. In his reply, CB expressed pleasure ‘that the South African matters are shaping so well’ (EP, 29 Dec 05).Google Scholar
  9. 1.
    The standard account of the Milner-Lyttelton constitution is by G. H. L. Le May, British supremacy in South Africa, 1899–1907 (1965), chap. 7; the account given in the present work is prior and independent.Google Scholar
  10. 3.
    CO. 291/95/2011, 19 Jan 06; see N. Mansergh, South Africa 1906–1961: the price of magnanimity (1962), p. 26.Google Scholar
  11. 2.
    Loreburn was at Balliol, got firsts in Mods and Greats, and was awarded a blue; he won the Ireland Scholarship — a much better record than any of his colleagues had (R. F. V. Heuston, Lives of the Lord Chancellors, 1885–1940 (1964), P. 134).Google Scholar
  12. 1.
    See for example, G. B. Pyrah, Imperial policy and South Africa, 1902–1910 (1955) ; the author wrote this book before the relevant documents were made available, The process of de-mythologising was begun byGoogle Scholar
  13. W. K. Hancock, Smuts, i, The sanguine years, 1870–1919 (1962), andGoogle Scholar
  14. P. N. S. Mansergh, South Africa, 1906–1961 (1962);Google Scholar
  15. G. H. L. Le May, British supremacy in South Africa, 1899–1907 (1965). Each of these three books was written before the cabinet memoranda and the Elgin papers were available to historians: the conclusions suggested by a perusal of these further sources were presented by R. Hyam, ‘Smuts and the decision of the Liberal Government to grant responsible government to the Transvaal, January and February, 1906’, Historical Journal, viii (1965), 380–98, which gives a slightly more detailed discussion of Smuts’ influence than is possible here, though I am indebted to the editor for permission to reproduce much of my article. Further supporting evidence for the view it advanced has been adduced from the Spender papers by B. B. Gilbert, see communication in Historical Journal, vol. x, no. 3 (1967), ‘The grant of responsible government to the Transvaal: more notes on a myth’.Google Scholar
  16. 2.
    A vague statement by Lloyd George to Lord Riddell is the source of this misconception: ‘At the outset, only two of us were with him, John Burns and myself. But his speech convinced the whole cabinet’ (Lord Riddell, More pages from my diary (1934), 144–5, 27 Apr 13. It will be noted that the question at issue was not precisely stated).Google Scholar
  17. 5.
    J. P. Fitzpatrick, The Transuaal from within (1899),Google Scholar
  18. W. E. Bleloch, The New South Africa (2nd ed. 1902),Google Scholar
  19. W. B. Worsfold, The problem of South African Unity (1900),Google Scholar
  20. J. Bryce, Impressions of South Africa (3rd ed. 1899), C. Lucas, A Historical Geography of the British Colonies, iv, Southand East Africa. See note in EP.Google Scholar
  21. 2.
    CO. 291/128/34478 and 119/3 2934, see also L. P. Mair, Native policies in Africa (1936), p.Google Scholar
  22. 5.
    See Keith, Selected speeches and documents on British colonial policy 1763–1917 (1918), ii, 3–24.Google Scholar
  23. 1.
    D. G. Hoskin, The genesis and significance of the 1886 Home Rule split in the Liberal party (unpublished Cambridge Ph.D. dissertation 1961), p. 159.Google Scholar
  24. 4.
    CB, Speeches, p. 181; PD. 152/571, Churchill; Fisher, Bryce, i, 287; Samuel, Liberalism, p. 225; J. Morley, Indian Speeches 1907–1909 (1909), p. 42, 21 Oct 07.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ronald Hyam 1968

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald Hyam
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CambridgeUK

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