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and the extreme Unionists on the other, and General Smuts, who held the portfolio of Defence together with two others, was the man who had to devise the series of compromises necessary under the circumstances. Those compromises, as in the case of the education question in the Free State, were in the end generally assured through the great personal influence of General Botha.
At the end of 1912 General Hertzog was forced to leave the Government, and the hard-won unity of the Dutch Party was destroyed. He retained, as events were to show, a following among the "back-veldt" Boers, who continued to support his narrow and exclusive racial prejudices and exploited the circumstances of the war to offer armed resistance to the State.
Then there were acute Labour troubles on the Rand, accompanied by disturbances which bore a revolutionary complexion. These disturbances were put down with an iron hand. General Smuts asked the Governor General for the use of Imperial troops. The troops fired on the crowd. There were many casualties, and the interference of the military was followed by outrage and arson. The position was worse than ever when on July 5, 1913 Generals Botha and Smuts rode into the town without an escort, and met first the mine owners and then the miners'
leaders. One of the men, afterwards deported, says that he threatened the two generals with death at the point of the revolver if another shot was fired in the streets. But Botha and Smuts were not the men to be terrified with threats. In any case a "treaty" was signed, and the riots ceased.
It was a patched-up peace, and in January 1914 there was a strike on the railways which threatened the security of the country, and the miners came out again. A general strike was called. Again General Smuts went to Johannesburg. General Delarey was instructed to turn his guns on the men's headquarters, and they surrendered. The leaders were arrested and deported. The defence for this summary action was the danger of revolution in the presence of a large native population, but there was more than a little uneasiness in many quarters at the methods adopted. In the long arguments in Parliament which followed the Minister retained his cool and bland manner and got his Indemnity Bill. But Labour remained unpacified.
His main preoccupation during these early years was with the organization of defence. He held other portfolios, eventually shouldering the Treasury, but he was especially concerned with providing South Africa with an army which could be used for the defence of her frontiers. He consistently and sensibly
deprecated the establishment of a "tin-pot" navy, for he was too well-informed not to realize that the shores of South Africa could be protected by the Imperial Navy and by that alone. But he was determined to see a strong military force available against any possible invader; and the elaborate Defence Act which he carried through the Legislature and then administered resulted in the establishment of the force which proved so efficient in the World War.
While many domestic questions were still unsolved came the news that the Empire was at war. A large section of the political adherents of Botha and Smuts did not love the British Empire. They desired the impracticable; they wanted complete separation, and the war seemed to them to offer the opportunity for breaking the British connection. But the Prime Minister and his lieutenant were loyal in the spirit and the letter to the Constitution they had helped to make. For them the old animosities were buried; their Government was a government within the Empire. Their wholehearted acceptance of the British case was never in doubt. General Smuts's opportunity for plain speech came when one of the Boer generals, General Beyers, asked to be allowed to resign his commission rather than go to fight for the Imperial cause in German South-West Africa. “I cannot conceive." Smuts wrote. "anything more fatal
and humiliating than a policy of lip loyalty in fair weather and of neutrality and pro-German sentiment in days of stress and storm."
In that spirit he maintained his support of the British Government, and undertook the task of driving the Germans from their position in South-West Africa and later from German East Africa. But it would be a mistake to assume that it was a sense of loyalty to an agreement alone which governed the thought and activities of General Smuts in those stirring years. His capacious mind had passed out of the narrow orbit of nationalism into the larger atmosphere of world ideas. He saw that in modern conditions a rigid nationalist isolation was an impossible policy, and that the easy yoke of the British Commonwealth offered the best security for the peaceful development of his country. I have reason to know, too, how largely his attitude during the war was influenced by his fear that a German victory would lead to the militarization of the African native. It is not difficult to conceive the feelings with which, having spent himself so ungrudgingly to avert that danger, he now sees vast tracts of the African continent converted into recruiting grounds for the French army, and the natives fleeing to the neighbouring territory to escape a service that, in Europe at all events, kills them like flies.
Before the year 1914 was out Maritz and De Wet were in open rebellion against the South African Government, and the Dutch were split in their allegiance. The rebels found a certain amount of support among the Boer farmers of the Free State and the Transvaal, especially among their old brothers in arms of the Boer War. It was not from the military point of view a difficult thing to crush the rebellion. The rebel commanders had not realized the difference in the means of communication since the War of 1899-1902; they had not allowed for the motor and wireless. And they had against them, not Imperial troops strange to the veldt, but Afrikanders who knew all the ruses of Colonial warfare. But the danger of outraging feeling among the Boers who remained loyal was very great, and the Government dealt gently, too gently in the opinion of some, with the rebels. In one case General Smuts acted with severity, and his action, justifiable by the ordinary laws of war, was very severely criticised. Joseph Fourie declined to surrender, and after an engagement in which there were several casualties, was taken prisoner by Colonel N. J. Pretorius. He was shot in the Pretoria prison on Dingaan's Day. General Smuts signed the death warrant, and was subjected to violent attacks in consequence. But in the majority of cases the leaders were amnestied.