1899 - 1902

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Anglo Boer War
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ZULU DISTURBANCES


After this period, when, as stated before, small but promising quantities of gold had been unearthed, it was no longer possible to prevent parties of miners  and speculators from trickling into the Transvaal, to the annoyance of its inhabitants. Outside, too, there were troubles, disputes, and skirmishes with the Zulus, and further north was waged a fierce fight between the Boers  and the chief of the Bapedi, one Sekukuni, whose father had signed away his independence to the Boers, and who refused in his turn to abide by the conditions of the compact. In this fight Sekukuni was successful, and the Boers,  worsted and discontented, and believing that the Almighty was displeased with them and with their President, Mr. Burgers, retired from the campaign. At the same time, in the south, Cetchwayo was itching to be on the warpath,  and the general state of affairs suggested a possible annihilation of the Transvaal by an uncontrollable horde of natives. Things went from bad to worse, and in October 1876 Lord Carnarvon remonstrated with the President of the  South African Republic regarding the unprovoked barbarity of the Sekukuni war, which had again been renewed. The reason for the interference of Lord Carnarvon is to be found in the following despatch, forwarded by Sir Henry  Barkly, the then Governor of the Cape

"As Von Schlickman has since fallen fighting bravely, it is not without reluctance that I join in affixing'. this dark stain on his memory, but truth compels me to add the following  extract from a letter which I have since received from one whose name (which I communicate to your lordship privately) forbids disbelief :-"'There is no longer the slightest doubt as to the murder of the

two women and  the child at Steelpoort by the direct order of Schlickman, and in the attack on the kraal near which these women were captured (or some attack about that period) he ordered his men to cut the throats of all the wounded! This is  no mere report; it is positively true.' And in a subsequent letter the same writer informs me that the statements are based on the evidence, not alone of Kaffirs, but of whites who were present.

"'As regards the even  more serious accusations brought against Abel Erasmus, (the Kruger's Post field-cornet), 'as specially alluded to in my letter to President Burgers, on the 28th ult.' (viz. of treacherously killing forty dr fifty friendly  natives, men and women, and carrying off the children), I beg to invite your lordship's attention to an account derived, I am assured, from a respectable Boer who accompanied the expedition, and protested against the slaughter  and robbery of friendly Kaffirs, committed by order of the above-named field-cornet.

"'Should I not shortly receive such a reply from the President to my letters of last month, as to convince me that his Honour has taken  effectual steps to check such outrages and punish the perpetrators, I will enter another protest, if only for form's sake.

"'Seeing, however, that Aylward, who is said to boast, whether truly or not, that he took part  with his brother Fenians in the murder of the police constable at Manchester, as well as in the attempt to blow up the Clerkenwell prison, had succeeded Schlickman in the command of the Steelpoort Volunteers, I question whether  the Government of the South African Republic has the power, even supposing it to have the will, to put a stop to further atrocities on the part of this band of" Filibusters," as they are commonly styled in the  newspapers.

"'In my opinion it will be requisite to call in the aid of British troops before this can be done, and I am not without hope that one of the results of the mission on which Sir T. Shepstone is about to start,  will be a petition from persons of education and property throughout the country for such an intervention on the part of her Majesty's Government as will terminate this wanton and useless bloodshed, and prevent the recurrence  of the scenes of injustice, cruelty, and rapine, which abundant evidence is every day forthcoming to prove, have rarely ceased to disgrace the Republics beyond the Vaal ever since they first sprang into existence.'"

Von  Schlickman was an ex-Russian officer, commanding a force of filibusters which had been engaged by the Transvaal Government, and his men being unpaid; were allowed to reimburse themselves by cattle or land seized from the  natives.

As a natural consequence, the war assumed a character of unrestrained ferocity. On receiving this information Lord Carnarvon wrote that his Government "could not view passively, and with indifference, the  engagement of the Republic in foreign military operations the object or the necessity of which had not been made apparent."

The quarrel with the chief had originated, as stated, in a Boer aim to his land, and the Boer  President. in replying urged the natural right of the Boers to all the land of the Transvaal. The chief magistrate at that time was President Burgers, a man who, if report may be believed, was far superior to those with whom he  associated. This man, a Cape Dutchman, and sometime minister of the Reformed Church, had been called to the onerous post of President of the South African Republic in I872. He was bent on the advancement of his nation, and his intelligence was remarkable. He was a man  of sterling character, fanciful, enthusiastic, an idealist even, with a horror of slaveholding, and a hankering for the pure life of the humanist. In a. measure he was too much in advance of the people with whom he was  connected. To them he was something of a Freethinker, a man too ready to judge for himself while the Gospel was at hand to judge for him. Such liberal views were not in accord with peasant limitations. His desire to raise his  country to the level of other nations, to bring commerce and railways within touch of his people, savoured of heresy. The appreciation for civilisation was so strong within him that he is even said to have carried it to  extremes, to have favoured the prompt and regular payment of taxes, and to have executed an daborate design for an international coat-of-arms! Now this reformer, like most reformers, was not appreciated among his own people. He  had no police to support him, no means of putting pressure on those who should have served his cause. The Conservative party, with Mr. Kruger at their head, did their best to circumvent every innovation and to save themselves  and the country from what they believed to be the dangerous inorthodoxy of their President. Mr Burgers in his posthumous "Vindication" outlines some strange hints regarding the character of his compatriots, which  outlines may now be readily filled in by personal experience. He therein asserts that had he chosen to publish to the world a faithful description of the Transvaal Boers, they would have forfeited the appreciation gained from  the Liberal party in Europe. Mr. Burgers' reserve is much to be regretted, as a few sidelights thrown on the Boer character at that period might have helped to educate the Liberal party of whom he spoke, and thereby saved much  of the vacillation of policy for which the country now has to suffer.