It is impossible to know what England is if one has not had the opportunity of visiting her Dominions oversea. It is just as impossible to judge of Englishmen when one has only seen them at home amid the comforts of the easy and pleasant existence which one enjoys in Merrie England, and only there. It is not the country Squires, whose homes are such a definite feature of English life; nor the aristocratic members of the Peerage, with their influence and their wealth; nor even the political men who sit in St. Stephen’s, who have spread abroad the fame and might and power of England. But it is these modest pioneers of “nations yet to be” who, in the wilds and deserts of South Africa, Australia and Asia, have demonstrated the realities of English civilisation and the English spirit of freedom.
In the hour of danger we have seen all these members
of the great Mother Country rush to its help.
The spectacle has been an inspiring one, and in the
case of South Africa especially it has been unique,
inasmuch as it has been predicted far and wide that
the memory of the Boer War would never die out, and
that loyalty to Great Britain would never be found
in the vast African veldt. Facts have belied
this rash assertion, and the world has seldom witnessed
a more impressive vindication of the triumph of true
Imperialism than that presented by Generals Botha and
Smuts. As the leader of a whole nation, General
Botha defended its independence against aggression,
yet became the faithful, devoted servant and the true
adherent of the people whom he had fought a few years
before, putting at their disposal the weight of his
powerful personality and the strength of his influence
over his partisans and countrymen.
CECIL RHODES AND SIR ALFRED MILNER
The conquest of South Africa is one of the most curious episodes in English history. Begun through purely mercenary motives, it yet acquired a character of grandeur which, as time went on, divested it of all sordid and unworthy suspicions. South Africa has certainly been the land of adventurers, and many of them found there either fame or disgrace, unheard-of riches or the most abject poverty, power or humiliation. At the same time the Colony has had amongst its rulers statesmen of unblemished reputation and high honour, administrators of rare integrity, and men who saw beyond the fleeting interests of the hour into the far more important vista of the future.
When President Kruger was at its head the Transvaal Republic would have crumbled under the intrigues of some of its own citizens. The lust for riches which followed upon the discovery of the goldfields had, too, a drastic effect. The Transvaal was bound to fall into the hands of someone, and to be that Someone fell to the lot of England. This was a kindly throw of Fate, because England alone could administer all the wealth of the region without its becoming a danger, not only to the community at large, but also to the Transvaalers.