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HOW ENGLAND SHOULD TREAT
BY SIR SIDNEY SHIPPARD, K.C.M.G., D.C.L., FORMERLY ADMINISTRATOR OF BRITISH BECHUANALAND AND ONE OF THE JUDGES
OF THE SUPREME COURT, CAPE OF GOOD HOPE.
Much has been written on the history of the past and on the present in South Africa, but as yet there have been comparatively few attempts to forecast the best permanent arrangements to follow upon the conclusion of the present hostilities. I have been honored by a request to contribute to the NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW a statement of my opinions on this complicated question. I gladly avail myself of the opportunity of submitting my views to the consideration of American readers, but I need hardly say that mine is not a prophetic soul. So far from being able to foretell the future of South Africa, I cannot even predict the probable duration of the present war. My belief is that the struggle in the Transvaal will be long, obstinate and sanguinary; that, unlike their more civilized and better informed brethren in the Orange Free State, large numbers of the Transvaal Boers will hold out to the very last; that even after their capital is taken they will carry on a guerilla war in the mountainous country to the northeast of Pretoria; that they will make desperate efforts to conquer southern Rhodesia, and even to cross the Zambesi; and, failing that, that they will endeavor to find a way of escape through the Bechuanaland Protectorate into German or Portuguese territory. I sincerely hope that I may prove to be mistaken in this estimate of the probable action of the Transvaal Boers. When the right moment comes, no efforts should be spared to induce them to accept the position of British subjects on terms which, in due time, will secure to them not only freedom and justice, but adequate representation and responsible government; but the history of past struggles between the English and the Dutch, and my own knowledge of the Boers' character, their intense love of liberty for themselves, with the right and power of domination over all others, their strong and deep religious faith, their ardent patriotism, their dogged tenacity, their courage in defensive warfare, their fatalism, their ignorance and their ferocity, all make me think that they will hold out stubbornly, at any rate so long as they can obtain supplies, contraband of war, and the aid of Continental mercenaries by way of Delagoa Bay and certain other points on the eastern seaboard.
The Franco-Dutch race in the Transvaal would prove an invaluable acquisition to the forces of the British Empire if their confidence and loyalty could be secured by fair means. How this most desirable consummation is to be reached is a question which would demand a long and elaborate answer. No more difficult problem could be submitted to any British statesman than how to secure the good will, respect and fidelity of the Transvaal Boers after the conquest of their territory. Unfortunately, we have still a long way to go before we can arrive at the point where we may hope even to begin the task of finding a satisfactory solution.
As regards the final results of the military operations, no loyal Englishman has ever entertained a moment's doubt. No matter what the cost and loss, the conquest of the Boer Republics must be achieved. The Republican Governments are bound to disappear, and the territories of the two States, together with Swaziland, will form part of Her Majesty's dominions. Any other settlement, any surrender or compromise which would leave a nucleus for future political intrigues in South Africa, or a fulcrum for any European Power hostile to England, would evoke a storm of indignation, an outburst of disgust and fury in this country and throughout the British Empire, that no English Ministry could possibly survive. It may be safely added that no conceivable Ministry in this country would seriously contemplate at the present day any such repetition of imbecility, in view of the increased knowledge of South African affairs now possessed by the British public. Throughout Great and Greater Britain the vast majority of men of all shades of political opinion are agreed on the policy which must be pursued, so far as the extinction of the Dutch Republics is concerned. The half-measures by which
the evil day might have been postponed before the Boer invasion of British territories are no longer possible, and it is well for the cause of freedom and civilization in South Africa that this is so. It is well that the heart of the Pharaoh of Pretoria was hardened at the right moment.
There are well-meaning people even in England who are still laboring under delusions with regard to the justice and necessity of our struggle against the forces of darkness in South Africa; but even they must see that the "Majuba Magnanimity” farce will not bear repetition. The very small minority of Pro-Boer or "Stop-the-War” fanatics in this country are a negligible quantity. Their theories are unsound. Their allegations of fact are based upon imagination. Their contentions will not bear argument. Their proposals, if acted upon, would involve the loss of South Africa and of all our other colonies, together with our Indian Empire. The greatest civilizing Power in the world, the most potent agency for diffusing the blessings of peace throughout the dark places of the earth, would be destroyed. Why these presumably sincere visionaries so persistently advocate a policy which, if pursued to its logical and inevitable conclusion, must ultimately leave the dismembered corpse of the British Empire for the vultures of the European Continent to gorge at leisure, they best know. Sane and sober-minded Englishmen, at home and in the colonies, are not prepared to perform the "happy despatch” at the bidding of these gentlemen.
Whatever the duration of the war, there must be a transitional period before the territories of the two Republics can be brought under a regular administration as part of Her Majesty's dominions. During the interregnum, martial law—which is only another name for the will of the commanding officer-must necessarily prevail throughout the disturbed districts and the conquered territories. Martial law under British officers is always administered with fairness, and justice is tempered with mercy. The aid of competent legal advisers whenever available is duly Bought, and if in a hostile or unsettled country a British courtmartial erts at all, it is usually on the side of undue leniency. The brutal methods and sanguinary sentences of French and German military tribunals are repugnant to the gentle and chivalrous British officer. Martial law in South Africa would not necessarily interfere with the action of the ordinary tribunals in civil cases
nor even in criminal cases between civilians; and a judicious commanding officer, of course, would take care to preserve as much of the existing machinery of government as he could consistently with allegiance to the Queen and a loyal acceptance of the new régime. The happy results of this policy are already to some extent manifest in the Orange territory. Even there, however, there are already signs that the English besetting error of undue generosity to the vanquished is bearing evil fruit.
The true medium between extreme severity and weak indulgence may at times be hard to find, but in the interests of order and good government the perpetrators of outrages against the rules of civilized warfare ought not to go unpunished, any more than sufferers for loyalty should go without due compensation. If this be true even in conquered territories, à fortiori it applies to the cases of those Dutch inhabitants of the Cape Colony and Natal who have risen in rebellion against Her Majesty's Government, and have raided, plundered and wrecked the property of their loyal neighbors. These men are absolutely without excuse, and should be dealt with as ordinary criminals on charges of treason, murder, theft, housebreaking, arson, or malicious injury to property, as the case may be; the possession of loot or stolen goods being in all cases sufficient proof of guilt.
It is obvious that trial by jury in the disturbed districts, or anywhere in the Cape Colony or Natal, would be a mere farce in the present state of public feeling throughout South Africa. Acquittal or condemnation would be a foregone conclusion in all cases, according as the jury happened to be proBoer or anti-Boer. Verdicts must be unanimous, and the ends of justice could always be frustrated, either by packing a jury or by taking care that one irreconcilable at least should be secured. Under the circumstances, the only safe and just course would be for the Imperial Government to appoint a judicial commission to try rebels without a jury, and also to take evidence and frame a report on all claims for compensation. Such a commission might be appointed with the sanction of an Imperial Act of Parliament if recessary, and might be proclaimed by Her Majesty's High Commissioner in South Africa, with the concurrence of the Cape and Natal Ministries, respectively. If either the Bond Ministry at the Cape, or the Cape or Natal Supreme Courts, raised legal difficulties on constitutional grounds, such obstruction might,
I think, be got rid of by the proclamation of martial law throughout the Cape Colony and Natal, and this is a course which, under present circumstances, I should strongly recommend. It would remove many legal and technical difficulties, it would give confidence to the loyalists, and it would be a terror to evil-doers. The case of the loyal farmers of the Cape Colony and Natal, whose property has been destroyed in many instances by their disloyal neighbors, is a peculiarly hard one, and I cannot imagine a more unjust and suicidal policy for any Government to pursue than to leave these men and their families destitute, in order to gain a cheap reputation for magnanimity by letting rebels, murderers, burglars and thieves go off scot free. Rebels and robbers should in all cases be made to pay in purse or person or in both, as the case may be; and the excuse that in their innocence they were beguiled by Mr. Krüger's wicked emissaries ought not to be too lightly admitted. These men had no just cause of complaint against Her Majesty's Government, and even if, instead of having all the political power in their own hands and enjoying perfect liberty, they had had political grievances, they would still have been without excuse for availing themselves of a state of war in order to steal or destroy the goods of their next-door neighbors.
I should deprecate any idea of inflicting capital punishment for treason or rebellion in South Africa, though the Roman-Dutch Law, the common law of all South Africa, decrees the penalty of death in all such cases. In this, as in many other respects, the example set by Mr. Krüger himself furnishes useful lessons. Whatever his faults may be, it must be imputed to him for righteousness that, save in forcing on this war, he has not shown himself hitherto to be bloodthirsty. On the contrary, he has repeatedly restrained the truculence of his followers. When Dr. Jameson and the officers of his ill-starred expedition were confined in Pretoria gaol, one commandant after another urged the President to allow the burghers to drag the prisoners out into the square and put them to death. Mr. Krüger knew that they had surrendered on a promise that the lives of all the party should be spared, and he steadily refused to yield to very great pressure. Again, when the four leaders of the reform movement in Johannesburg were placed on their trial for high treason at Pretoria, before a "hanging" judge specially imported from Bloemfontein for the purpose, and after the prisoners had been denied