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Cape Colony

contradiction to native tribal law, which recognized the great son, or son of the chief wife, as heir. The government were threatened with a native disturbance, when Rhodes telegraphed his assurance that compensation should be granted, and that such a decision should never be given again. This assurance was accepted and tranquillity restored. At the close of the next session (that of 1894), after this incident had occurred, Rhodes laid on the table a bill drafted by himself, the shortest the House had ever seen. It provided that all civil cases were to be tried by magistrates, an appeal to lie only to the chief magistrate of the territory with an assessor. Criminal cases were to be tried before the judges of supreme court on circuit. The bill was passed, and the effect of it was, inasmuch as the magistrates administered according to native law, that native marriage customs and laws (including polygamy) were legalized in these territories. Rhodes had retrieved his promise, and no one who has studied and lived amongst the Bantu will question that the action taken was both beneficent and wise.

During 1895 Sir Hercules Robinson was reappointed governor and high commissioner of South Africa in succession to Sir Henry Loch, and in the same year Mr Chamberlain became secretary of state for the colonies.

Movement for Commercial Federation.—With the development of railways, and the extension of trade between Cape Colony and the Transvaal, there had grown up a closer relationship on political questions. Whilst premier of Cape Colony, by means of the customs union and in every other way, Rhodes endeavoured to bring about a friendly measure of at least commercial federation among the states and colonies of South Africa. He hoped to establish both a commercial and a railway union, and a speech which he made in 1894 at Cape Town admirably describes this policy:—

“With full affection for the flag which I have been born under, and the flag I represent, I can understand the sentiment and feeling of a republican who has created his independence, and values that before all; but I can say fairly that I believe in the future that I can assimilate the system, which I have been connected with, with the Cape Colony, and it is not an impossible idea that the neighbouring republics, retaining their independence, should share with us as to certain general principles. If I might put it to you, I would say the principles of tariffs, the principle of railway connexion, the principle of appeal in law, the principle of coinage, and in fact all those principles which exist at the present moment in the United States, irrespective of the local assemblies which exist in each separate state in that country.”

To this policy President Kruger and the Transvaal government offered every possible opposition. Their action in what is known as the Vaal River Drift question will best illustrate the line of action which the Transvaal government believed it expedient to adopt. A difficulty arose at the termination of the agreement in 1894 between the Cape government railway and the Netherlands railway. The Cape government, for the purposes of carrying the railway from the Vaal river to Johannesburg, had advanced the sum of £600,000 to the Netherlands railway and the Transvaal government conjointly; at the same time it was stipulated that the Cape government should have the right to fix the traffic rate until the end of 1894, or until such time as the Delagoa Bay–Pretoria line was completed. These rates were fixed by the Cape government at 2d. per ton per mile, but at the beginning of 1895 the rate for the 52 m. of railway from the Vaal river to Johannesburg was raised by the Netherlands railway to no less a sum than 8d. per ton per mile. It is quite evident from the action which President Kruger subsequently took in the matter that this charge was put on with his approval, and with the object of compelling traffic to be brought to the Transvaal by the Delagoa route, instead of as heretofore by the colonial railway. In order to compete against this very high rate, the merchants of Johannesburg began removing their goods from the Vaal river by waggon. Thereupon President Kruger arbitrarily closed the drifts (fords) on the Vaal river, and thus prevented through waggon traffic, causing an enormous block of waggons on the banks of the Vaal. A protest was then made by the Cape government against the action of the Transvaal, on the ground that it was a breech of the London Convention. President Kruger took no notice of this remonstrance, and an appeal was made to the imperial government; whereupon the latter entered into an agreement with the Cape government, to the effect that if the Cape would bear half the cost of any expedition which should be necessary, assist with troops, and give full use of the Cape railway for military purposes if required, a protest should be sent to President Kruger on the subject. These terms were accepted by Rhodes and his colleagues, of whom Mr W. P. Schreiner was one, and a protest was then sent by Mr Chamberlain stating that the government would regard the closing of the drifts as a breach of the London Convention, and as an unfriendly action calling for the gravest remonstrance. President Kruger at once reopened the drifts, and undertook that he would issue no further proclamation on the subject except after consultation with the imperial government.

On the 29th of December 1895 Dr Jameson (q.v.) made his famous raid into the Transvaal, and Rhodes's complicity in this movement compelled him to resign the premiership of Cape Colony in January 1896, the vacant post being taken by Sir Gordon Sprigg. As Rhodes's complicity in the raid became known, there naturally arose a strong feeling of resentment and astonishment among his colleagues in the Cape ministry, who had been kept in complete ignorance of his connexion with any such scheme. Mr Hofmeyr and the Bond were loud in their denunciation of him, nor can it be denied that the circumstances of the raid greatly embittered against England the Dutch element in Cape Colony, and influenced their subsequent attitude towards the Transvaal Boers.

In 1897 a native rising occurred under Galeshwe, a Bantu chief, in Griqualand West. Galeshwe was arrested and the rebellion repressed. On cross-examination Galeshwe stated that Bosman, a magistrate of the Transvaal, had supplied ammunition to him, and urged him to rebel against the government of Cape Colony. There is every reason to suppose that this charge was true, and it is consistent with the intrigues which the Boers from time to time practised among the natives.

In 1897 Sir Alfred Milner was appointed high commissioner of South Africa and governor of Cape Colony, in succession to Sir Hercules Robinson, who had been created a peer under the title of Baron Rosmead in August 1896.

Mr Schreiner's Policy.—In 1898 commercial federation in South Africa advanced another stage, Natal entering the customs union. A fresh convention was drafted at this time, and under it “a uniform tariff on all imported goods consumed within such union, and an equitable distribution of the duties collected on such goods amongst the parties to such union, and free trade between the colonies and state in respect of all South African products,” was arranged. In the same year, too, the Cape parliamentary election occurred, and the result was the return to power of a Bond ministry under Mr W. P. Schreiner. From this time, until June 1900, Mr Schreiner remained in office as head of the Cape government. During the negotiations (see Transvaal) which preceded the war in 1899, feeling at the Cape ran very high, and Mr Schreiner's attitude was very freely discussed. As head of a party, dependent for its position in power on the Bond's support, his position was undoubtedly a trying one. At the same time, as prime minister of a British colony, it was strongly felt by loyal colonists that he should at least have refrained from openly interfering between the Transvaal and the imperial government during the course of most difficult negotiations. His public expressions of opinion were hostile in tone to the policy pursued by Mr Chamberlain and Sir Alfred Milner. The effect of them, it was believed, might conceivably be to encourage President Kruger in persisting in his rejection of the British terms. Mr Schreiner, it is true, used directly what influence he possessed to induce President Kruger to adopt a reasonable course. But however excellent his intentions, his publicly expressed disapproval of the Chamberlain-Milner policy probably did more harm than his private influence with Mr Kruger could possibly do good. On the 11th of June 1899, shortly after the Bloemfontein conference, from which Sir Alfred Milner had just returned, Mr Schreiner asked the high