The New York Times/How Lieut. Churchill Escaped From Boers

How Lieut. Churchill Escaped From Boers  (1900) 

December 13, 1900, Page 2


Introduced to an American Audience by Mark Twain.


Protests of Some with Pro-Boer Sympathies Whose Names Were Used - Mr. Van Ness's Circular.

Winston Spencer Churchill, the war correspondent, told a fashionable audience at the Waldorf-Astoria last evening how he escaped from Pretoria. The grand ballroom was crowded to the doors.

More than usual publicity had been given the lecture owing to the action taken by certain persons named on the reception committee list by Major Pond, who is managing Mr. Churchill's tour. On Dec. 7 William Dean Howells and J. Kennedy Tod announced that the use of their names was unauthorized, and this was followed by a similar protest from Edward Van Ness, who was actively pro-Boer during the war in South Africa. Mr. Van Ness addressed a circular letter to each gentleman named on the reception committee list, asking him if a similar liberty had been taken with his name.

The Reception Committee list as at first given out contained among others the following names: Gov. Roosevelt, Governor-elect Odell, Whitelaw Reid, Mayor Van Wyck, Senators Chauncey M. Depew and Thomas C. Flatt, and Thomas B. Reed.


In answer to his circular Mr. Van Ness received this reply from A. M. Downes, Mayor Van Wyck's secretary:

I am directed by the Mayor to acknowledge the receipt of your circular letter of the 10th inst. concerning the unauthorized use of his name on the list of patrons of Winston Spencer Churchill's first appearance in New York and to say that on Dec. 5 he received a letter from Mr. J. B. Pond, which was dated Dec. 4 in which Mr. Pond said:

"Winston Spencer Churchill's first appearance in New York, Dec. 12, is going to be a brilliant affair. I write to ask you if you will allow your name to be used on the list of patrons to follow that of Gov. Roosevelt."

By direction of the Mayor, under date of Dec. 5, I sent the reply, which is herewith inclosed, to Mr. Pond.

This reply states that it is contrary to the Mayor's uniform practice to accede to the request made by Major Pond.

Among the letters of protest received by Mr. Van Ness were the following:

Princeton University.

Edward Van Ness, Esq.:

Dear Sir: Thank you for your letter. I have written to The Post protesting against the annexation of my name to support the conquest of the Boer Republic without consent. Yours truly,


Dec. 11, 1900 10 East Forty-sixth Street, New York, Dec. 12.

Mr. Edward Van Ness:

Dear Sir: If my name appears as one of the Reception Committee of Winston Spencer Churchill, it has been used without my authority or without asking me for the permission to use it.

I would never have acceded to the proposal if it had been made, and such use of a name shows that the person taking the liberty has no more morality than the thief or forger. Very truly yours,

C. H. Van Brunt.

Major Pond assured a reporter yesterday that men with pro-Boer sympathies had been invited to welcome Mr. Churchill, in all seriousness.

"No one could be more pro-Boer than W. Bourke Cockran," said Major Pond, "and yet he was pleased to be on the committee. It never occurred to me that any one could possibly object to meeting so distinguished a man as Mr. Churchill. I gave no thought to politics. How I came to name the committee was this way:

"Many of Mr. Churchill's friends in New York are people of the very highest social standing. They urged me to adopt the English custom of a list of patrons, or Reception Committee, to occupy the stage. I consented, and a list of names was suggested of about 100 leading citizens of various walks of life. Invitations were sent out by me, and about 75 of the 100 accepted the honor with thanks.

"A prominent Scotchman recommended the names of John S. Kennedy and J. Kennedy Tod. I received no reply to their invitations, but before the final corrected circular was sent out their names were erased. Thomas B. Reed sent a characteristic delightful note of regret, alluding to the other humorist who was to preside. I wrote Mr. Reed asking if he would allow his name to remain, and he replied, no. So his name was stricken off.

"During all this time the ticket sale for the Churchill lecture at the Waldorf-Astoria dragged very slowly, and I began to get discouraged. Not until these letters of protest appeared did the sale take a sudden bound. Van Ness? I never heard of the man.

Mr. Churchill, who was seen last evening before the lecture, expressed himself as being greatly annoyed at the incident.

"I am very much opposed to anything of the kind," he said. "The names ought not to have been used without authority. I certainly did not want these gentlemen to come. It was a great mistake, which I regret exceedingly. I notice, by the way, that Mr. Van Ness quotes extracts from a letter alleged to have been written by me. I never wrote what he quotes."

Mr. Churchill alluded to a passage in Mr. Van Ness's circular in which he quotes the correspondent as saying: "We had a good bag today - 10 killed, 17 wounded."

Among the members of the Reception Committee who greeted the young soldier-author at the Waldorf-Astoria last evening were Rear Admiral Erben, Gen. Stewart L. Woodford, Gen. N. M. Curtis, Gen. Alfred C. Barnes, Oscar S. Straus, William Berri, John Kendrick Bangs, Dr. Albert Shaw, Daniel Frohman, Col. E. M. Know, George H. Daniels, and Frank Fuller.


The lecture began at 8:30, Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) being in the chair. Mr. Clemens, introducing the speaker, said Mr. Churchill knew all about war and nothing about peace. War might be very interesting to persons who like that sort of entertainment, but he had never enjoyed it himself.

During the civil war he remembered visiting a battlefield once, but he had never felt comfortable there. One cannot carry an umbrella when it rains, for when shells are flying they might get tangled up with the umbrella.

Personally he disapproved of the war in South Africa, and he thought England sinned when she interfered with the Boers, as the United States is sinning in meddling in the affairs of the Filipinos. England and America were kin in almost everything; now they are kin in sin. He had long worked as a missionary, advocating bonds of friendship between America and England, and thanks to his efforts, the United States was on good terms with Great Britain.

America and England wept at the door of China when the mailed fist of blustering Germany battered the unhappy Chinaman while Russia robbed him, and they have worked together to maintain the favor of the world. He sympathized with the Boers, but as a missionary in the cause of an Anglo-American alliance he took pleasure in welcoming Mr. Churchill, "a blend of America and England which makes a perfect match."

Mr. Churchill was greeted cordially by the audience. He showed nervousness at first, but soon forgot himself in his subject, and held the attention of his listeners by a clear recital of some of the most striking episodes of the struggle between Boer and Briton. A touch of humor, introduced half unconsciously, lightened up the lecture considerably.


After alluding to the fact that he had already written a book about his escape from Pretoria, he said he trusted that everyone in the audience would purchase a copy. This was the anniversary of his escape, many accounts of which had been related here and in England, but none of which was true. He escaped by climbing over the iron paling of his prison while the sentry was lighting his pipe. He passed through the streets of Pretoria unobserved and managed to board a coal train on which he hid among the sacks of coal.

When he found the train was not going in the direction he wanted he jumped off.

He wandered about aimlessly, he said, for a long time, suffering from hunger, and at last he decided that he must seek aid at all risks. He knocked at the door of a kraal, expecting to find a Boer, and to his joy found it occupied by an Englishman named Herbert Howard, manager of a Transvaal colliery, who ultimately helped him to reach the British lines.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1928.

This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.