"Liberty!" versus liberty

Material Information

"Liberty!" versus liberty some remarks on a South African petition
Series Title:
Vigilance papers
Abbreviated Title:
Liberty! versus liberty some remarks on a South African petition
Brydone, R. R.
South African Vigilance Committee
Place of Publication:
Cape Town
South African Vigilance Committee
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
8 p. ; 21.5 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Transvaal (South Africa) -- Politics and government -- 1880-1910
South African War, 1899-1902 ( LCSH )
Suid-Afrikaanse Oorlog, 1899-1902
Imfazwe yaseMzantsi Afrika, 1899-1902
Transvaal (Suid-Afrika) -- Politiek en regering -- 1880-1910
ITransvaal (eMzantsi Afrika) -- Izopolitiko kunye noorhulumente -- 1880-1910
Temporal Coverage:
1899 - 1900
Spatial Coverage:
Africa -- South African Republic (1852-1902)
Afrika -- Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (1852-1902)
Afrika -- yaseMzantsi Afrika (1852-1902)
Africa -- South Africa
Afrika -- Suid-Afrika
Afrika -- uMzantsi Afrika
Afrika -- Suid-Afrikaanse Republiek (1852-1902)
-25.716667 x 28.233333


General Note:
VIAF (name authority) : South African Vigilance Committee : URI
General Note:
VIAF (name authority) : Brydone, R. R. : URI

Record Information

Source Institution:
SOAS University of London
Holding Location:
SOAS University of London
Rights Management:
This item is licensed with the Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial License. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this work non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms.
Resource Identifier:
627781 ( ALEPH )


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Full Text


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E. B. Brydone.










From the Blue Book 1882, dealing with the negotiations which led to
the signing of the 1881 Convention at Pretoria.

Sir Hercules Robinson : Before annexation had British sub-
jects complete freedom of trade throughout the Transvaal;
were they on the same footing as citizens of the Transvaal?

Mr. Kruger : They were on the same footing as the Burghers;
there was not the slightest difference in accordance with the
Sand River Convention.

Sir Hercules Robinson : I presume you will not object to
that continuing ?

Mr. Kruger : There will be equal protection for anybody.

Sir Evelyn Wood : And equal privileges ?

Mr. Kruger : We make no difference as far as burgher rights
are concerned. There may perhaps be some slight differ-
ence in the case of a young person who has just come into
the country.


The Franchise Laws in the Transvaal were altered on five
different occasions, each new enactment making it more difficult
for British subjects to become enfranchised, until the law of 1894
made it clear that, assuming the Field-cornets records to be
honestly and properly compiled and to be available for reference
(which they are not), the immigrant, after fourteen years' proba-
tion, during which he shall have given up his own country and
have been politically emasculated, and having attained the age of
at least forty years, would have the privilege of obtaining burgher
rights should he be willing and able to induce Ihe majority of a
hostile clique to petition in writing on his behalf and should he
then escape the veto of the President and Executive.The
Transvaal from within.



A MEETING was recently called in Cape Town of persons in
sympathy with the movement for conciliation on the lines
submitted by an anti-English paper.

The time and place of the proposed gathering was repeatedly
advertised and the objects freely supported by the so-called Con-
ciliation party, and commented upon by their press. The feeling
of sympathy with the movement was expressed by an attendance
of 40 persons (including ladies) This in no way disheartens the
agitators. The lack of spontaneity must be made up for by
manufactured enthusiasm, and so a petition has been prepared
making a number of assertions which if correct would prove the
English nation unworthy of governing, and by inference would
lead the world at large (or such portion thereof as reads the
petition) to think that the British rule in Cape Colony was the
tyrannical form, and that of Pretoria the free form of Government.

The assertions in, and inferences to be deduced, from the wording
of that petition are absolutely incorrect and misleading. Taken
seriatim they are easily disproved, although the assertions con-
tained therein lack detailed definiteness.

The petition is addressed to the People of Great Britain and
Ireland, and begins:

We, the undersigned, British subjects, now residing
in the Colony of the Cape of Good Hope, ask you, the
people of Great Britain and Ireland, to hear us.

In all that follows we state our heartfelt conviction,
having every reason to believe that we also express
the conviction of the majority of the white people who
have made South Africa their home.

You were led into the war which you are now waging
against the two South African Republics in ignor-
ance of vital facts and by means of misleading state-

The petition drawn up by the so-called Conciliation Committee is
printed in large dark type throughout this pamphlet.


England was not led into the war in ignorance of vital facts
and by means of misleading statements unless the petitioners
refer (and we scarcely think they do) to the statements so often
made that the Boers were a peaoe loving, law abiding pastoral
people, and as such they were unlikely to declare war against the
power of Britain : England has become better informed since the
war began, for she now finds that a war has been sprung upon her
by a people armed 14 to the teeth, and having an artillery manned
by experts from European nations. England was on other matters
well informed. She knew well how frequently the obstinacy of
President Kruger and his hatred to the English had nearly caused
a war since 1881. Sir Alfred Milners despatches, the Uitlanders
Petitions and Public Manifesto, all kept the home Government
well posted. Nor can it be said that the English people did not
know the opposite views. There were Daily Chronicles, British
Weeklies, Manchester Guardians, all pegging away biased in favour
of the Dutch Republics, and ably defending the position they
took up. Truth, too, was ever ready to malign the TJitlander.
At a later date there came to enlighten the English people Fitz-
patricks book, The Transvaal from Within, the statements in
which have never yet been attacked, far less disproved. A more
convincing damning indictment of a form of Government has
never been penned.

You were lead to believe that the Boers would not fight;
that they were cowards. Experience has shown that
in this respect you were misled. You were led to
believe that they were brutal and inhuman. Ex-
perience has proved the contrary. You were led
to believe innumerable other things against them,
which experience would also prove to be false. We
feel justified, therefore, in asking you to take our
local experience into account.

The Boers were not declared by responsible people to be cowards.
In fact, Mr. Younghusband, the Times Special Correspondent, in
his instructive articles to the thinking people of England, long
prior to the war, said:With all that is said against Boer
government, for the Boers as a people much respect and sympathy
are felt. In spite of their faults as rulers they are looked upon as
a brave and hardy people, and their rights as the first pioneers in
this country aie recognised. Numerous other trusted writers
have given prominence to the good qualities of the Boers. Un-
fortunately these people, however, live such a different life, have
such different ideals, and have travelled so little, save on


the veldt, that they cannot understand the cause of the
Uitlariders complaints. If they had known, Pretorian autocracy
would have long ere this been overthrown by the Boers themselves.
Truly it can be said that they were led into the war they are
waging in ignorance of vital facts, and by means of misleading

Our experience makes us certain that even if you
succeed in conquering these people, you can never
subjugate them. They will never become contented
subjects of the Empire. Their cry is Liberty or
Death! They are fighting as only men can fight
who are fighting for their homes, who are con-
vinced that their cause is just, and that for that
reason God will give them freedom in the end.,,

If that is what the Boers are fighting for they will, when the
war is over, have all. They will have precisely the same liberty
as any British colonist hasthe same liberty as is enjoyed to-day
by Dutch and English alike in Cape Colony and Natal. No
Transvaal or Orange Free State burgher will be deprived of his
home even when the war is over, nor was there ever auy talk of
such a thing. There is no question, therefore, of fighting for
their homes, or, if there is, the idea has been put in the minds of
these ignorant men by lying intriguers.

The compilers of this Petition might well be accused of
doing the Devils work by inferring instead of lying. What-
ever the Pastoral Boers are fighting for they will secure.
But the Liberty which the Pretorians desire will thank God
never be given back to them : a liberty to oppress all uitlanders,
to exact from them four* fifths of the States Revenue whilst
denying them those rights they promised them in 1881; a liberty
to interfere with the Judges in Court if they give decisions con-
trary to the views of the Executive; a liberty to oppress the native.
Such a liberty will not be the outcome of this war But it was
for such a liberty the Transvaal declared war against Britain.

It has been said that the Republics are waging a war
of conquest, and that you are bound to resist their
aggression. We deny that conquest is or ever has
been their aim.

There is now little need to discuss further the intention of the
Kruger party. Facts are before us. Towns have been taken,
Dutch Commandants appointed, and all persons unwilling to fight
against England turned out. We know that thousands of English
lives have already been lost in driving the 'Boers from Natal and
Cape Colonies. Discussion is useless.


We assert that when they assumed the aggressive they
did so in self-defence. Their independence was
threatened and they knew it. Your Government
now openly declares its determination to deprive
them of their independence, and thus proves that the
fear of the Republics was well founded.

The denial is of no avail, for facts contradict.

(1) In 1895 the Uitlanders issued a manifesto, in which it was
declared that We desire an independent republic which shall be
a true Republic in which every man who takes the oath of
allegiance to the state shall have equal rights.

(2) The Times correspondent, as well as many other interpreters
of the aspirations of the Uitlander population, clearly conveyed to
the English people that none of them want to see the British
flag hoisted here.

(3) Prior to the war being declared by the Republics the l)uke
of Devonshire assured the world that the negociations then going
on in no way tended towards the independence of the Republics
being threatened.

(4) Sir Alfred Milner in a special despatch to President Steyn
assured him there was no intention to interfere with the in-
dependence of the Republics.

In spite of all these facts the Republics declared war, and thus
determined their fate.

They want to be let alone ; to be free as you are free.
We hold that if ever nations have done so, these two
Republics have proved themselves worthy to be free.

To deprive them of their freedom would not only be
unjust; it would be a hideous and almost irremedi-
able blunder. The war itself was unnecessary. It
has already filled South Africa with ruin and despair.
We know that it is day by day driving a large number
of youi fellow subjects nearer to desperation. Only
one thing could be worse than the war, and that is
the step which your Government now aspires to

And now, the truth: (1) Since 1881, down to the present time,
for twenty years past, there has not been one sign that the Leaders
of the Transvaal Party in a practical way desired to live at peace
with the English in South Africa.


(2) During these twenty years there has been absolutely no
evidence of its worthiness to he trusted. By its every action it
has shewn its total unfitness to govern.

(3) Since 1881, instead of settling down peacefully to develop
its great extent of country, instead of demonstrating its non-
extension desires, it has unceasingly endeavoured to burst the
territorial boundaries agreed to in treaty with Great Britain.

(4) It has been a constant menace to the peace of the whole of
South Africa, on every portion of the Transvaals boundary.

(a) On the Bechuanaland border.

Resulting in England sending out Sir Charles Warren in
1884 with a large force to regain the confiscated land, at a
cost to England of a million and a half sterling.

(b) On the Zululand border.

Another successful effort to secure more land.

(ic) On the Rhodesian border.

A further determined attempt to secure landthis time
frustated by the firm attitude of the chartered forces.

(d) On the Swaziland border.

Resulting in that territory being handed over to the
control of the Transvaal.

(e) On the Orange Free State border.

By inducing that State, which hitherto had been
inoffensive to England, to enter into an offensive and
defensive alliance with it.

(/) To the Cape Colony.

Over the Drifts question.

The foregoing is strange evidence of a peace loving Republic,
only wanting to be let alone and to be free as we are free It
is scarcely to be wondered at that the Empire is determined
despite the fact that, before Ihe two Republics surprised the world
by declaring war upon England, President Kruger and President
Steyn were assured again and again by England that there was
no intention to interfere with the independence of the Republics
now that war has been declared, to do away with such a state of
things as have been going on for all these years, to abolish such an


autocratic rule as has been exercised by President Kruger and per-
mitted by his burghers. To replace that autocraoy by a government
such as Britain will give will prove a kindness to the burghers

We, for our part, believing that South Africa can never
be at peace and can never enjoy a true prosperity
until the Republics are free, can only pledge our-
selves henceforth to work unceasingly for their
freedom, by every legal and right means; but we
know that the decision must rest ultimately with
you, the people of Great Britain and Ireland, and
we therefore appeal to you to grant the Republics, in
the name of Justice and for the sake of South Africa
and the Empire, the freedom which they and which
we most solemnly believe they deserve.

[This ends the Petition.]

Equally strong is the feeling on the other hand, that it is licence
and not freedom that the Pretori an autocracy has delared war
against Great Britain to achieve. If certain inhabitants of this
British Colony have cultivated their emotions at the expense of
their intellects towards such an autocracy as has existed in Pretoria
for the last twenty years, we must not be led into absurd and
untenable positions thereby. For the sake of South Africa,
Britain must step in and grant freedom to the People irrespective
of race, to all governing institutions, and to the judiciarya
freedom, in fact, which the Transvaal has never had during the
last 20 years.

Full Text


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