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Impressions of South Africa

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This new edition has been carefully revised throughout, and, as far as possible, brought up to date by noting, in their proper places, the chief events of importance that have occurred since the book first appeared. In the historical chapters, however, and in those which deal with recent politics, no changes have been made save such as were needed for the correction of one or two slight errors of fact, and for the mention of new facts, later in date than the first edition. I have left the statements of my own views exactly as they were first written, even where I thought that the form of a statement might be verbally improved, not only because I still adhere to those views, but also because I desire it to be clearly understood that they were formed and expressed before the events of the last few months, and without any reference to the controversies of the moment.

When the first edition of the book was published (at the end of 1897) there was strong reason to believe as well as to hope that a race conflict in South Africa would be avoided, and that the political problems it presents, acute as they had become early in 1896, would be solved in a peaceable way. To this belief and hope I gave expression in the concluding chapter of the book, indicating "tact, coolness and patience, above all, patience," as the qualities needed to attain that result which all friends of the country must unite in desiring.

Now, however, (October 1899), Britain and her South African Colonies and territories find themselves at war with the South African Republic and the Orange Free State. A new chapter is opened in the history of the country which completely alters the situation, and must necessarily leave things very different from what it found them. Readers of this new edition may reasonably expect to find in it some account of the events which have within the last two years led up to this catastrophe, or at any rate some estimate of that conduct of affairs by the three governments concerned which has brought about a result all three ought to have sought to avert.

There are, however, conclusive reasons against attempting to continue down to the outbreak of the war (October 11th) the historical sketch given in Chapters to . The materials for the historian are still scanty and imperfect, leaving him with data scarcely sufficient for judging the intention and motives with which some things were done. Round the acts and words of the representatives of the three governments concerned, there rages such a storm of controversy, that whoever places a particular construction upon those acts and words must need support his construction by citations from documents and arguments based on those citations. To do this would need a space much larger than I can command. The most serious difficulty, however, is that when events are close to us and excite strong feelings, men distrust the impartiality of a historian even when he does his best to be impartial. I shall not, therefore, attempt to write a history of the last two fateful years, but content myself first, with calling the reader's attention to a few salient facts that have occurred since 1896, and to some aspects of the case which have been little considered in England; and secondly, with describing as clearly and estimating as cautiously as I can, the forces that have worked during those years with such swift and deadly effect....