The American Revolution and the Boer War, An Open Letter to Mr. Charles Francis Adams on His Pamphlet "The Confederacy and the Transvaal"

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Charles Francis Adams, Esq.,
Boston, Massachusetts.

Dear Sir:

I have been handed a pamphlet written by you entitled "The Confederacy and the Transvaal," the burden of which is, that the Boers ought not to continue their irregular guerilla struggle against England, because it is destructive of themselves and wasteful of England's resources; or to use your own words "the contest drags wearily along, to the probable destruction of one of the combatants, to the great loss of the other, and, so far as can be seen, in utter disregard of the best interests of both."

You argue that the Boers, when their regular armies were defeated some considerable time ago, should have surrendered, given up the struggle, and not have resorted to a prolongation of the contest by guerilla methods. In support of this you cite the action of General Lee at the close of our civil war, when, his regularly organized army being completely defeated, he surrendered it, went quietly to his home and set an example, followed by the other southern leaders, of not prolonging the strife by those irregular methods which, as is well known, can be so very effective for a long period in a mountainous country like Switzerland or in a country of vast distances like the United States or South Africa.

In other words, you go so far as to say that when a people are fighting for their political integrity and independence, a hopeless struggle for it ought not to be prolonged beyond what may be called the point of scientific defeat. Rather than prolong it to desperation and death in the last ditch it is much better and more sensible to accept a dependent position of some sort, the position of a crown colony, or a charter colony with more or less varying degrees of colonial control, all of which your very unwise and altogether reckless great grandfather John Adams, and some of his friends used to describe as "political slavery."

This doctrine of the wrongfulness of a struggle for independence against overwhelming odds has appeared at times of late in the newspapers. I noticed that Mr. Bourke Cockran in his speech at the recent pro-Boer meeting in Chicago said, that the doctrine did not apply to the Boers because their heroism had now placed them in a position to win. He did not say positively whether or not he approved of such a doctrine. I am myself willing to pass by a great deal of approval of it. But when the attempt is made to render such an infamous doctrine respectable by affixing to it the honored name of Adams, a protest is in order from all those who are at all familiar with our own history.

I do not believe that our American people when their attention is really brought to the matter believe in any such doctrine. But their attention is not usually brought to it. We have been by our stupendous power far removed for a long time from the possibility of such a struggle. We are accustomed to the business method of settling serious disputes by yielding at once to overwhelming power; by acquiescing in the vote of the majority or the will of the richer man or clique that has bought up all the stock....