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Anglo Boer War
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THE POLITICAL WEB


Before going further, we must examine the situation between the Governor of the Cape, the President of the South African Republic, and the Home Government.  When we look back at Boer history, we find the details of annexation and restoration repeating themselves with the consistency of the chorus of a nursery rhyme. What the Government of the Cape accomplished the Government at  home proceeded promptly to undo, till the problems connected with Boer liberty and British rights became so tangled and so intricate that they could only be solved by the sword. It may be remembered that in 1854 Sir George  Grey, the then Governor of the Cape. applied himself to the puzzle.
He started with the best hopes. He saw before him a vista of labour, of argument, of contradiction, but the tangles, he believed, could eventually be smoothed  out. In the anxiety to avoid trouble and responsibility, and possibly in an amiable desire to conciliate the parties at home, the Imperial Government had conceded territories and alienated subjects without having made an effort  to discover the wishes of the people, or to try a free form of government suited to South Africa. He was in favour of a Federal Union wherein the separate Colonies arid States, each with its local government and legislature,  should be combined under one general representative legislature, led by a responsible Ministry, specially charged with the duty of providing for common defence. This plan of Federal Union seemed to appeal to the Burghers of the  Orange Free State, for the Volksraad decided that "a union of alliance with the Cape Colony, either on the plan of federation or otherwise, is desirable." Sir George Grey was not permitted to pursue his policy, for  the British Government decided against the resumption of British sovereignty over the Orange Free State.
The same forward and backward movement, the same sort of political chasd et croise was again carried on from 1876  and 1877 to 1881. It was decided that a Federal Union should be created between such African Colonies as were willing to join. To further this scheme Sir Bartle Frere, after a long and arduous career in India, was appointed  Governor and High Commissioner by Lord Carnarvon, the then Colonial Secretary. But Sir Bartle was too late. Sir Theophilus Shepstone, who had been sent out to the Transvaal on Special Commission to confer with the President  on the question of Confederation, bad already annexed the Transvaal. The reasons for the annexation were many and excellent. Firstly, the Transvaal Republic, vulgarly speaking, was out at elbows. It was bankrupt, helpless,  languishing. The sorry sum of 12S.6d. represented the entire wealth of the Treasury. The Zulu chief Cetchwayo was waiting to "eat up" the Boers, and the Boers were unceasing in their efforts to encroach on  Zulu territory. But the deplorable state ot affairs is better described by quoting Sir T. Shepstone's letter on the subject. "It was patent to every observer,” writes Sir T. Shepstone,

He again writes: "I think it necessary to explain, more at length than I was able to do  in my last despatch, the circumstances which seem to me to forbid all hope that the Transvaal Republic is capable of maintaining the show even of independent existence any longer, which induced me to consider it my duty to  assume this position in my communications with the President and Executive Council, and which have convinced me that, if I were to leave the country in its present condition, I should but expose the inhabitants to anarchy among  themselves, and to attack from the natives, that would prove not only fatal to the Republic, but in the highest degree dangerous to her Majesty's possessions and subjects in South Africa." The proclamation of the  annexation of the Transvaal was issued on the 12th of April 1876, and on the previous day Sir T. Shepstone wrote: "There will be a protest against my act of annexation issued by the Government, but they will at the same  time call upon the people to submit quietly, pending the issue. You need not be disquieted by such action, because it is taken merely to save appearances, and the members of the Government from the violence of a faction that  seems for years to have held Pretoria in terror when any act of the Government displeased it. You will better understand this when I tell you privately that the President has from the first fully acquiesced in the necessity for  the change, and that most of the members of the Government have expressed themselves schemed to acquire a great financial status, and yet at the same time to keep up his affectation of piety and to maintain his pristine  condition of bucolic irresponsibility. Brought face to face with Sir T. Shepstone's scheme for annexation, Mn Burger privately encouraged the proposed action of the Government-he and his colleagues even stipulating for pension  and office-while publicly he lifted up his protest against the innovation. The Boer, with his usual craft, had decided that the British Government should set him financially on his feet, which feet he meant promptly to use  for running away from his responsibilities. Some declare that the policy of Sir T. Shepstone was premature, that he should have waited until the Boer had soaked further in the slough of insolvency into which he was fast  sinking. But Sekukur was threatening, and on the south-eastern frontier Cetchwayo, with a force some thirty thousand strong, was waiting his opportunity. The promise of the future was a general holocaust, in which Boer men,  women, and children, farms and flocks would be annihilated. Sir T. Shepstone, had he been other than a Briton, might have stayed his hand and waited till the Boers were effectually swept away, but being a Briton he acted as  such, doubtless arguing that, "As we under Heaven are supreme head, So under him, that great supremacy, Where we do reign, we will alone uphold ."