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Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
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From Our Readers [re: the Boer War] (S576aa: 1900)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: One of about a dozen letters to the Editor printed on page 4 of The Morning Leader (London) issue of 5 February 1900. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S576AA.htm

Professor Alfred R. Wallace.

     If anyone desires to know the fundamental causes that have led to the present most unjust war, he should read carefully the third and fourth chapters of Mr. Froude's "Oceans," in which is given, in his incisive manner, a sketch of the history of our treatment of the two Republics during the first three-quarters of the present century. From personal observation during two visits to the country--one official, the other private--he was well able to judge of the character of the Boers, and he had no private interests to serve. He tells us that "the Boers had been so systematically abused and misrepresented that the English scarcely regarded them as human beings to whom they owed any moral consideration," and that they "had despised them and had not treated them with ordinary honesty." He assures us that the Dutch of South Africa, though obstinate as mules, are emotional and affected easily through their feelings; and that, when the Colonial Office admitted that they had not been treated fairly in the annexation of the diamond fields (in 1870), and awarded them the altogether inadequate sum of £90,000 as compensation, they were satisfied. The money was nothing; the acknowledgment of wrong was everything. He considered that if English Governments and the Press would try to make the best of the Boers instead of the worst, all would be well.

     On the question of the treatment of the natives Mr. Froude's conclusion is that although the Dutch are accused of harsh treatment their method is in the long run more merciful than ours. We have killed hundreds of natives where the Dutch have killed tens. And the fact that in the two Republics they have been always living in the midst of a warlike black population ten or twenty times their number, shows that they have solved the problem of how the two races can live side by side to the advantage of both.

     Even more important is the opinion of the late Sir George Grey, who had been Governor of the Cape Colony, and who was one of the greatest colonial administrators we have ever had. He told Mr. Froude that he had gone to the Cape with the prejudice against the Boers generally entertained in England, and he had found the Boer of the English newspapers and platform speeches to be a creature of the imagination which had no real existence. He found them to be in reality a quiet, orderly, hard-working people, hurting no one if let alone, but resentful of injuries, and especially of calumnies against their character. Had the charge of cruelty to the natives been true, Sir George Grey would have been one of the last men in the world to pardon it. But he declared that it was no more true of them than of us, and necessarily of all colonists who come in collision with the original owners of the soil; and he thought our perpetual interference with them to be foolish and unjust. Our interference alone had created all the troubles in South Africa. Finally, he declared his opinion that the Boers were a people who could not be driven, but, if treated frankly and generously, they would be found among the very best colonists in any part of the world.

     At the present time, when the policy of interference and continuous misrepresentation has brought upon the nation a war whose results, even if entirely successful, can never compensate for a thousandth part of the blood spilt, it is well to call to mind the opinions and warnings of the two great men here quoted--men who had ample opportunity for forming an accurate judgement, and no personal interests to induce them to conceal or pervert the real facts. The character of a people does not change in a single generation, and we may be sure that the Boers as known to Grey and Froude are the very same which our Government has to-day goaded into a war of independence.

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