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Lord Milner's Work in South Africa From its Commencement in 1897 to the Peace of Vereeniging in 1902

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The failure of British administration in South Africa during the nineteenth century forms a blemish upon the record of the Victorian era that is at first sight difficult to understand. If success could be won in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, in India and in Egypt, why failure in South Africa? For failure it was. A century of wars, missionary effort, British expansion, industrial development, of lofty administrative ideals and great men sacrificed, had left the two European races with political ambitions so antagonistic, and social differences so bitter, that nothing less than the combined military resources of the colonies and the mother-country sufficed to compel the Dutch to recognise the British principle of "equal rights for all white men south of the Zambesi." Among the many contributory causes of failure that can be distinguished, the two most prominent are the nationality difficulty and the native question. But these are problems of administration that have been solved elsewhere: the former in Canada and the latter in India. Or, to turn to agencies of a different order, is the cause of failure to be found in a grudging nature—the existence of physical conditions that made it difficult for the white man, or for the white and coloured man together, to wring a livelihood from the soil? The answer is that the like material disadvantages have been conquered in Australia, India, and in Egypt, by Anglo-Saxon energy. We might apply the Socratic method throughout, traversing the entire range of our distinguishable causes; but in every case the inquiry would reveal success in some other portion of the Anglo-Saxon domain to darken failure in South Africa.

Nevertheless, in so far as any single influence can be assigned to render intelligible a result brought about by many agencies, various in themselves and operating from time to time in varying degrees, the explanation is to be found in a little incident that happened in the second year of the Dutch East India Company's settlement at the Cape of Good Hope. The facts are preserved for us by the diary which Commander Van Riebeck was ordered to keep for the information of his employers. Under the date October 19th, 1653, we read that David Janssen, a herdsman, was found lying dead of assegai wounds, inflicted by the Beechranger Hottentots, while the cattle placed under his charge were seen disappearing round the curve of the Lion's Head. The theft had been successfully accomplished through the perfidy of a certain "Harry," a Hottentot chief, who was living on terms of friendship with the Dutch—a circumstance which was sufficiently apparent from the fact that the raid was timed to take place at an hour on Sunday morning when the whole of the little community, with the exception of two sentinels and a second herdsman, were assembled to hear a sermon from the "Sick-Comforter," Wylant. It was the first conflict between the Dutch and the natives; for Van Riebeck had been bidden, for various excellent reasons, to keep on good terms with the Hottentots, and to treat them kindly....