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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 357 pages of information about A Handbook of the Boer War.

CHAPTER X

Baden-Powell and the Siege of Mafeking

Mafeking is a dull, unimportant town in the veld with a history that attracted the Boers to it.

They considered that, like Natal and Kimberley, it did not rightfully belong to Great Britain.  They were a community of trekking and centrifugal atoms, especially in the direction of territories in the possession of native tribes, and their own country, though sparsely inhabited, was not spacious enough for them.  The bucolic ambition of the Boer, which is to dwell in a house from which he cannot see the smoke of his nearest neighbour’s chimney, can be satisfied in a flat country only when the house stands in the midst of a farm many thousand morgen in extent.

For a generation or two before the war, the Transvaalers had been encroaching upon Bechuanaland.  A Baralong chief named Montsioa was dispossessed of Mafeking and could obtain no redress from the British Government, which at that time was in an intermediate frame of mind, and did not necessarily act on the assumption that in every dispute between white man and native the latter was in the right.

Thus encouraged, the Transvaalers annexed Bechuanaland in 1868, but three years later it was taken away from them under the Keate award, in an arbitration to determine the respective rights of Boer and native over the debateable territory.

After the war of 1881, the Transvaalers supposed that the British Government would be unlikely to assert itself, and two little impudent republics of adventurers were set up in territory which the award had declared to be within the British sphere of influence.  Montsioa fought for his rights, but the British Government lay torpid for some time.  Finally it was goaded into action by a proclamation issued by Kruger annexing the territory to the Transvaal.  He soon found it advisable to cancel the proclamation, and in 1885 the Republics of Goshen at Mafeking and of Stellaland at Vryburg were effaced by an expedition led by Sir Charles Warren.  Bechuanaland was again annexed by proclamation, but on this occasion to the British Empire.

The resentment of the Transvaalers against Mafeking, which originated in the conviction that they had been wrongfully deprived of it, was aggravated by the fact that it was the starting place of the Jameson Raid.

On October 13 nearly 7,000 burghers, with six guns, under P. Cronje, sat down before it.  He expected to have little difficulty in recovering it.  Appearances were encouraging; the town was open and defenceless, and he was probably aware that it was held by a weak garrison.  Why the British should have occupied such an out-of-the-way place as part of their plan of campaign, he could not understand, but there it was, inviting attack.

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