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THE REFORM MOVEMENT


Before 1895 the wealthier members of the community refused to entertain the suggestion of coercive measures, but after the Volksraad in session revealed the  real policy of the Government, even they began to perceive that revolutionary action might become obligatory. Though the capitalists were advised by those who knew to avoid spending money on hopeless efforts at reform, and to  steer clear, if possible, of the political imbroglio, they eventually joined hands with the Reformers. How the egg of the Jameson conspiracy came to be laid no one exactly knew. Certain it was that those who looked for the  hatching of a swan, were confronted with a very ugly duckling indeed! Arms and ammunition were purchased, and these, concealed as gold-mining impediinenta, were smuggled into the country. Messrs. Leonard and Phillips, two  prominent Reformers, consulted Mr. Rhodes as to future affairs, but Mr. Rhodes was in the awkward position of acting at one and the same time as Managing Director of the Consolidated Gold Fields in the Transvaal, Prime Minister  of the Colony, and Managing Director of the Chartered Company, and consequently was a little vague in his propositions. After some conversation, he decided that he would, at his own expense, keep Dr. Jameson and his troops on  the frontier "as a moral support."

Later on in September Dr. Jameson visited Johannesburg, and made his arrangements in person. It was agreed that he should maintain a force of 1500 mounted men, fully equipped, and that besides, having with him 1500 spare rifles, and some spare am-munition, there should be about 5000 rifles, three Maxims, and 1,000,000 rounds of ammunition smuggled into Johannesburg. The idea was, that the Uitlanders would prepare  their revolt, and that should Dr. Jameson's services be needed, Johannesburg, with 9000 armed men and a fair equipment of machine guns and cannon, would be prepared to co-operate: at that time it seemed no difficult matter to seize the fort and magazines at Pretoria for  the time being. It was in course of repair, and in charge merely of a hundred men, most of w. horn could be relied on to be asleep or off duty after nine o'clock at night. The plan of seizing the fort, capturing the ammunition,  and clearing it off so as to enforce their views without bloodshed seemed perfectly feasible, and Dr. Jameson readily agreed to lend himself to the scheme for giving such "moral support" as was required by the  Uitlander Reformers. Of their part in the affair it is difficult to speak impartially. It appears on the surface that they induced this man, for no personal motive either of financial gain or political power, to lend himself  willingly to be the tool of the aggrieved Uitlanders, who, when the time came, were too vacillating between their fear of the Republic and the desire for their own individual good, to support the person whom they had chosen for  their champion, and who so disinterestedly was prepared to risk both life and position in their service! It was decided, however, that the Reformers should arrange a revolution, which would have the effect of forcing the hands  of the Transvaal Government. The High Commissioner, as they imagined, would come on the scene as a final arbitraton. Dr. J ameson's troops, who had acted so effectively in the Matabele campaign, were to be kept at Pitsani on  the Bechuana border, in order if necessary to come at a given signal to the rescue of the Uitlanders. The idea was not without precedent. Sir Henry Loch, two years before, in dread of a Johannesburg rising, had considered the  advisability of placing troops on the border.

So as to justify his action to the directors of the Chartered Company and the Imperial authorities, the following undated letter was sent to Dr. Jameson, Mafeking:-

"DEAR SIR,-The position of matters in this State has become so critical, that we are assured  that at no distant period there will be a conflict between the Government and the Uitlander population. It is scarcely necessary for us to recapitulate what is now matter of history; suffice it to say, that the position of  thou-sands of Englishmen, and others, is rapidly becoming intolerable. Not satisfied with making the Uitlander population pay virtually the whole of the revenue of the country while denying them representation, the policy of  the Government has been steadily to encroach upon the liberty of the subject, and to undermine the security for property to such an extent as to cause a very deep-seated sense of discontent and danger. A foreign corporation of  Hollanders is to a considerable extent controlling our destinies, and in conjunction with the Boer leaders endeavouring to cast them in a mould, which is wholly foreign to the genius of the people. Every public act betrays the  most positive hostility, not only to everything English, but to the neighbouring States.

"Well, in short, the internal policy of the Government is such as to have roused into antagonism to it not only practically the  whole body of Uitlanders, but a large number of the Boers; while its external policy has exasperated the neighbouring States, causing the possibility of great danger to the peace and independence of this Republic. Public  feeling is in a condition of smouldering discontent. All the petitions of the people have been refused with a greater or less degree of contempt; and in the debate on the Franchise petition, signed by nearly 40,000 people, one member challenged the Uitlanders to fight for the rights they asked for, and not  a single member spoke against him. Not to go into details, we may say that the Government has called into existence all the elements necessary for armed conflict. The one desire of the people here is for fair play, the  maintenance of their independence, and the preservation of those public liberties without which life is not worth living. The Government denies these things, and violates the national sense of Englishmen at every turn.

"What we have to consider is, what will be the condition of things here in the event of a conflict. Thousands of unarmed men, women, and children of our race will be at the mercy of well-armed Boers, while property of  enormous value will be in the greatest peril. We cannot contemplate the future without the gravest apprehensions. All feel that we are justified in taking any steps to prevent the shedding of blood, and to ensure the protection  of our rights.

"It is under these circumstances that we feel constrained to call upon you to come to our aid should a disturbance arise here. The circumstances are so extreme that we cannot but believe that you and the  men under you will not fail to come to the rescue of people who will be so situated. We guarantee any expense that may reasonably be incurred by you in helping us, and ask you to believe that nothing but the sternest necessity  has prompted this appeal.

"CHARLES LEONARD.

LIONEL PHILLIPS.

FRANCIS RHODES.

JOHN HAVS HAMMOND.

GEORGE FARRAR."

It was arranged that Dr. Jameson should start from camp on the night of the outbreak at Johannesburg-either on the 28th of December or on the 4th of January-according to notice which would subsequently be given. From this  moment, however, doubts began to fill:the minds of the Reformers. They were dissatisfied with the quantity of arms they had been able to smuggle into the town; there was a want of cohesion among the different sections of those  interested; they went so far as to disagree as to what flag they were going to revolt under. The Reformers were evidently not all of Dr. Jameson's opinion, that the Union Jack was the one and only flag under which they could  hope for justice-they were, as we know, only comrades in suffering but not compatriots, and besides this, many declared that reform and not annexation was what they were anxious to secure.

Here we have before us what made the  complicated riddle of the Raid Since it has defied all the CEdipuses of the century, we will not endeavour to unravel it. Did the Reformers set all their grievances aside before the paramount question, "Under which flag,  Jameson?" or did they make use of the flag argument to cover a series of vacillations which prevented them from acting up to the rules of the conspiracy they themselves had set on foot? Did Mr. Rhodes engage in the plot  for the sake of financial gain? Did he do so out of sympathy for the "cause," or did he attempt a magnificent political coup? And lastly-Did that unhappy scapegoat, the gallant Jameson, launch himself on the  wild mistaken escapade to rescue his fellow-countrymen from oppression, to serve his private ends financial or political, or from the sheer spirit of adventure which, in some degree, animates every British heart? Who shall say?