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THE FRANCHISE


The much-vexed question of the Franchise continued to rankle in the hearts of the Uitlanders. Its ramifications had grown so complicated that even lawyers in  discussing the matter continually found themselves in error. We may therefore be excused from attempting to examine its niceties, or rather its-well-the reverse. In 1893 a petition, signed by upwards of 13,000 aliens in favour of granting the extension of the Franchise, was received by the Raad  with derision. In 1895 a monster petition was got up by the National  Union, an organisation formed for the purpose of righting the wrongs of the Uitlanders. During the great Franchise debate in August 1895, Mr. R. K. Loveday, one of the Loyalists in the war, in the course of an address dealing  with the subject, expressed himself very definitely and concisely, and in a manner which could not be refuted. He said-"The President uses the argument that they should naturalise, and thus give evidence of their desire to  become citizens. I have used the same argument, but what becomes of such arguments when met with the objections that the law requires such persons to undergo a probationary period extending from fourteen to twenty-four years  before they are admitted to full rights of citizenship, and even after one has undergone that probationary period he can only be admitted to full rights by the resolution of the First Raads Law IV. of 1890, being the Act of the  two Volksraads, lays down clearly and distinctly that those who have been eligible for ten years for the Second Raad can be admitted to full citizenship. So that, in any case, the naturalised citizen cannot obtain full rights  until he reaches the age of forty years, he not being eligible for the Second Raad until he is thirty ycars. The child born of non-naturalised parents must therefore wait until he is forty years of age, although at the age of  sixteen he may be called upon to do military service, and may fall in the defence of the land of his birth. When such arguments are hurled at me by our own flesh and Mood-our kinsmen from all parts of South Africa-I must  confess I am not surprised that these persons indignantly refuse to accept citizenship upon such unreasonable terms. The element I have just referred to-namely, the Africander element-is very considerable, and numbers  thousands, hundreds of whom, at the time this country was struggling for its independence, accorded it moral and financial support, and yet these very persons are subjected to a term of probation extending from fourteen to  twenty-four years. It is useless for me to ask you whether such a policy is just and reasonable or Republican, for there can be but one answer, and that is 'No I' Is there one man in this Raad who would accept the Franchise on  the same terms? Let me impress upon you the grave nature of this question, and the absolute necessity of going to the burghers without a moment's delay and consulting and advising them. Let us keep nothing from them regarding  the true position, and I am sure we shall have their hearty co-operation in any reasonable scheme we may suggest. This is a duty we owe them, for we must not leave them under the impression that the Uitlanders are satisfied to  remain aliens, as stated by some of the journals. I move amongst these people, and learn to know their true feelings, and when public journals tell you that these people are satisfied with their lot they tell you that which  they know to be false. Such journals are amongst the greatest sources of danger that the country has. We are informed by certain members that a proposition for the extension of the Franchise must come from the burghers, but,  according to the Franchise Law, the proposition must come from the Raad, and the public must consent. The member for Rustenberg says that there are 9338 burghers who have declared that they are opposed to the extension of the  Franchise. Upon reference to the Report he will find that there are only 1564 opposed to the extension. Members appear afraid to touch upon the real question at issue, but try to discredit the memorials by vague statements that some of the signatures are not  genuine, and the former member for Johannesburg, Mr J. Meyer, seems just as anxious to discredit the people of Johannesburg as formerly he was to defend them."

In spite of all that was said and done, however, no progress  was made. The debate was closed on the third day, the request of the memorialists was refused, and they were referred for satisfaction to the existing laws.

About this time the Transvaal came very near to war with Great  Britain. As before stated, Mr. Kruger was much bound up with the affairs of the Netherlands Railway Company and its Hollander-German promoters. He attempted to divert the stream of Johannesburg traffic to Delagoa Bay, for the  purpose of keeping profit from the pockets of the British. The freights, however, were evaded by unloading the goods at the frontier, and taking them across the Vaal in waggons. It was easy thus to forward goods-between  Johannesburg and Vilioens Drift-direct by the Cape Railway.

But Mr. Kruger was not to be defeated. In October 1895, he closed the drifts or fords of the Vaal to all waggon loads of goods from Cape Colony. Unfortunately the President had overreached himself The people of Cape Colony and those of  the Free State were indignant, and the High Commissioner, Sir Hercules Robinson, and the Cape Premier, Mr. Rhodes, both brought their influence to bear on the President. He was obdurate. Mr. Chamberlain, the new Colonial  Secretary, came to the rescue. He put his foot down, and a determined foot it was. He sent an ultimatum to Mr. Kruger announcing that closure of the drifts after the 15th of November would be considered an act of war.

The  drifts were reopened. But the Netherlands Railway Company still stuck to their tariffs and their aim of depriving the British Colonies of the custom dues and railway rates on the traffic of Johannesburg. Consequently this thorn  in the side of the British Colonists was left to fester.

Day by day the discontent grew, and the cry of "No taxation without representation" became the Uitlanders motto. They perceived that they were deprived of  rights, yet expected to serve as much cows for the fattening of a State that was arming itself at all points against them, and they came to the conclusion that some strong measures must now be taken for their protection. The  Chamber of Mines and the Transvaal National Union had spent some time in advocating purely constitutional methods, the Chamber of Mines exploiting the grievances of the Gold Mining industry, while the National Union struggled  for general reforms which should make the conditions of Uitlander life less intolerable than they were. The Reformers, whose chairman was Mr Charles Leonard, a solicitor of good practice in Johannesburg, were mostly men of the  middle and professional classes. The capitalists, being anxious to keep in with the Transvaal Government, were some what shy of the National Unionists; while the working men on their side were suspicious of the motives of the  Reformers, and were chary of lending themselves to any scheme which might conduce to the profit of the millionaires. The National Union clearly expressed its aims in a manifesto which ended with the cxposition of the Charter  which its members hoped to obtain. it said:

"We want-

1. The establishment of this Republic as a true Republic.

2. A Grondwet, or Constitution, which shall be framed by competent persons selected by representatives of the whole people, and framed on lines laid down by them.

3. An equitable Franchise Law and fair representation.

4. Equality of the Dutch and English languages.

5. Responsibility to the Legislature of the heads of the great departments.

6. Removal of religious disabilities.

7. Independence of the Courts of Justice with adequate and secured remuneration of the Judges.

8. Liberal and comprehensive Education.

9.Efficient Civil Service, with adequate provision for pay and pension.

10. Free Trade in South African products."

The Manifesto wound up with the pertinent question, "How shall we get it?"

The "how" was to have been decided at a public meeting fixed for the 27th of December 1895, and subsequently postponed till January 8th, 1896. But what the National Union proposed the Jameson Raid disposed. The meeting was destined never to take place!