I recollect that Mr. Gladstone himself confessed, with much humility it seemed to us, in a pamphlet written many years after the American War, that it “had been his misfortune” on several occasions “not to have perceived the reality and importance of a question until it was at the door.” This was very true. His noble enthusiasm for some good and vital cause so engrossed him at times that the humble knocking at the door of some other, perhaps equally vital question, was not heard by him. The knocking necessarily became louder and louder, till at last the door was opened; but then it may have been too late for him to take the part in it which should have been his.
[Footnote 15: Speech of Mr. Drage, M.P., at Derby, December, 1899.]
VISIT OF TRANSVAAL DELEGATES
TO ENGLAND. THE LORD MAYOR’S REFUSAL
TO RECEIVE THEM AT THE MANSION HOUSE. DR. DALE’S LETTER TO MR.
GLADSTONE. MR. MACKENZIE IN ENGLAND. MEETINGS AND RESOLUTIONS ON
TRANSVAAL MATTERS. MANIFESTO OF BOER DELEGATES. SPEECHES OF W.E.
FORSTER, LORD SHAFTESBURY, SIR FOWELL BUXTON, AND OTHERS. THE
LONDON CONVENTION (1884).
In 1883, two years after the retrocession of the Transvaal, the Boers, encouraged by the hesitating policy of the British Government, sent a deputation to London of a few of their most astute statesmen, to put fresh claims before Mr. Gladstone, and Lord Derby, then Colonial Minister. They did not ask the repeal of the stipulations of the Convention of 1881—that was hardly necessary, as these stipulations had neither been observed by them nor enforced by our Government, but what they desired and asked was the complete re-establishment of the Republic, freed from any conditions of British Suzerainty. This would have given them a free hand in dealing with the natives, a power which those who knew them best were the least willing to concede.
Sir R.N. Fowler was at that time Lord Mayor of London. According to the custom when any distinguished foreigners visit our Capital, of giving them a reception at the Mansion House, these Transvaal delegates were presented for that honour. But the door of the Mansion House was closed to them, and by a Quaker Lord Mayor, renowned for his hospitality!
The explanation of this unusual act is given in the biography of Sir R. Fowler, written by J.S. Flynn, (page 260.) The following extract from that biography was sent to the Friend, the organ of the Society of Friends, in November, 1899, by Dr. Hodgkin, himself a quaker, whose name is known in the literary world:—“The scene of Sir R. Fowler’s travels in 1881 was South Africa, where he went chiefly for the purpose of ascertaining how he could best serve the interests of the native inhabitants. He left no stone unturned in his search for information—visiting Sir Hercules Robinson, the Governor of the Cape, Sir Theophilus Shepstone, Sir Evelyn Wood, Colonel Mitchell, Bishops Colenso and Macrorie, the Zulu King Cetewayo, the principal statesmen, the military, the newspaper editors, the workers at the diamond-fields, and many others. The result of his inquiries was to confirm his belief of the charges which were made against the Transvaal Boers of wronging and oppressing the blacks.