Select Page

Against Annexation of the Republics

July 9, 1900 — Metropolitan Hall, Burg Street, Cape Town, South Africa


I should like to read some letters I have received, selected from among hundreds of others, from Canada, Australia, New Zealand expressing condemnation of this war, and denouncing any pro­posal for the annexation of the Republics. I have selected two be­cause the writers are men of mark in their own colonies, and are Colonial Englishmen, one filling the highest public office in his country, to which citizens can attain.

An ex­tract from the first letter is as fol­lows:—

“Little did I think I should ever be addressing you upon such a painful sub­ject as the contemplated effacement of the Transvaal and Orange Free State; but as I share to the fullest extent the opinions of yourself and your husband with regard to the present iniquitous war in South Africa, I thought a few lines from one at such a distance might not be considered an unwarrantable instruction upon your privacy.

Conscientiously believing that the Boers are right, and the British wrong, I am prepared to make any personal sacrifices in the advocacy of a good cause, and I sincerely trust that the British will not be allowed by the civilized world to crush the Republics out of existence. Havin lived so long in these latitudes, you can readily conceive how disgusted I feel at the Austrian Colonies’ assistance at the perpetration of a hideous crime against justice and humanity. But let not the outside world be deceived. There are thousands of people in these Colonies who consider the war a most unjust and unrighteous one. Jingoism in the Colonies has not be spontaneous. It was sprung upon the public as a surprise by a few ambitious and opportunistic politicians looking forward to Imperial favors and distinctions; and, aided by flattering cablegrams from Chamberlain, the war spirit has been fanned and inflamed until many Colonists have gone clean off their heads.”

I have received numerous letters from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand saying exactly the same thing in almost the same words. I am firmly convinced that a time will come when these Col­onies will bitterly reproach themselves for the part they have played in this accursed war; but it is sad to think that in the meantime the brave Boer Repub­lics may be crushed out of existence by forces vastly superior to theirs. God forbid that such a deplorable fate is in store for them!”

Then there is a letter from an English Colonist on the other side of the world :—

“ I hope you will pardon the liberty I am taking in addressing you, but I have just read in the leading morning paper of this city an account of an interview which their special war correspondent had with you recently in South Africa for that paper, wherein you expressed regret that Australians should be found fighting with England against the Boers, and I have been unable to resist the impulse to write and tell you that, al­ though many Australians are with the enemies of the heroic Boers, there are yet thousands of Australians who are strongly opposed to this brutal and in­iquitous war now being fought in South Africa, and they are in absolute sympathy with the Boers. The day is not far distant when the historians of the future will write of this war as a blot upon the fair fame of Great Britain, and will express pity that our young nation of Australia should by her part in this miserable business so early in her history clothe herself with shame.”

These letters appear to me most important as they bring home to me the fact that, in addition to the sympathy of the whole continent of Europe, the intellect, and, before all, the conscience of the English-speaking race all over the world, is largely with us in the struggle to obtain justice for the Transvaal and the Free State.

And to those who, like myself, have English blood in their veins, this is a matter of great importance. We have been proud of our English descent — not because England was a great country, because the England we most love and admire, the England of Shakespeare and Milton, of Pym and of Sir Harry Vane, is a very small England; it is not because Englishmen are more numerous, for there are more Chinamen than Englishmen in the world — it was not because England is rich, because throughout the whole course of human history the accumulation of vast quantities of wealth in the hands of the upper classes of any nation has always preceded the downfall and decay of that people; it was not because England is powerful, for the Roman and the Spanish Empires at the time of their greatest power were immeasurably more power­ful to-day than England is to-day compared with other nations. The reason why we have been proud of our English descent has been that we had believed, whether rightly or wrongly, that there was one quality which tended to be more com­mon among English men and women than among other races, and which we, as it were of right, inherited.

I do not know how better to describe this quality than in the words of an English writer who believed that she possessed it: —

“It will strike as soon for a trampled foe
As it will for a soul-bound friend.
What heart is that, say if you can?
’Tis the heart of the true-born English man.”

If we were to lose their faith in the possession of this quality by the English race, if we were to substitute for it greed, ambition, and lust for Empire, then our descent from it becomes no more for us a matter of glory, but of shame. We would rather ally ourselves with the smallest of the trampled-down peoples, than march with the race of the tramplers. Therefore we welcome the knowledge that at this moment, the moment of the greatest moral degradation which England had ever known, there are thousands of English-speaking men and women all over the world who are yet true to the loftiest tradition of English morality.


But there is one thing which men and women all over the world who sympa­thise with them must see, as clearly as we see it. It is this: If that body of men who had laboured to pro­duce this war are successful in carry­ing out their plans, if by the cost of the lives of the thousands of valiant English soldiers, they succeed in crushing the two little Republics in South Africa and annexing them, there will never be peace in South Africa.

Those who have worked in hospital, and who have some knowledge of surgery, know that a very terrible thing sometimes happens. When a great surgical operation is performed, and a body is cut open, it not infrequently happens that, owing to the carelessness or the stupidity of the operator some small foreign object has been left within the cavity of the body. The body is sewn up: the external wound might heal; the operators might think that the whole thing was an unqualified success. But deep within the body was that foreign irritating substance is producing disease and putrifaction. It might take months, or it might take years of unutterable suffering and organic disturb­ance, but until through a gangrenous wound that foreign substance is ex­truded, there can be no return to balanced health.

The attempt to annex the Free, State and the Transvaal is an attempt to introduce into the body social of South Africa such


If Mr. Joseph Chamberlain and the handful of speculators and politicians, who for their own reasons have aided him in bringing about the war, are successful, and if they succeed in commemorating the Queen’s reign by this crime and in an­nexing the Republics, and attempting to govern them by military force, or, far worse still to put into power the men, or the tools of men, who had brought about the war, then there will never be peace in South Africa — never until that condition has passed away.

Therefore, I ask you, the South African women of Dutch and English extraction, gathered here, to join with me in ap­pealing to the conscience of the English-speaking race all over the world to aid us in attempting to save South Africa from these long years of misery, discord, and bloodshed that will result if the proposed policy be carried out.

But it is not South Africa alone which will have to suffer. It has often been said that the greatest blunder which the governing body of England has ever been guilty of was that committed by George III, when he interfered with the internal concerns of the American Colonies.

If the proposed annexation is carried out it would be so no longer, but it will be said that the greatest blunder was committed at the latter end of the 19th century. The time is not far distant when the people or England, men and women, will recognise that the only friends they had in South Africa have been men and women who have denounced this war from its inception; who have stated that it will be iniquitous and unjust, who protest against the landing of foreign troops upon the soil of this Colony, who told England that 100,000 men will never walk across the Free State and the Transvaal: and the little African meer-cat— torn, wounded and bleeding, might yet creep back alive to its home in the red African earth.


The day is coming when England will realise that the most deadly foes she has ever had are the men who, to satisfy personal greed and ambition, produced this war. Unless England immediately refutes and reverses her entire course of action, every farm­ house which the British soldiers are burning down to-day will be a torch light­ing the British Empire in South Africa to its doom, every trench which the brave English soldiers dig will be a part of the tomb of England; every bullet which takes the life of a South African will find its billet in the heart of the British Empire; every political prisoner of South Africa who in his cell this night will dream of freedom will one day realise it in his own person or that of his descendants.

What Mr. Chamberlain and the men who with him appear to be im­pelling the English nation to commit in South Africa to-day is murder; what they are really compelling them to commit is suicide. South Africa to­-day lies torn, wounded and bleeding at the feet of England. It is the hour of England’s might; but the day will come when England will know that for her also the path of justice will have been the path of peace.




Source: The Voice of South African Women for a Lasting Peace