Courtesy Reuters

The Secession Movement in South Africa

THE Union of South Africa still suffers from the romantic illusions and false optimism which attended its foundation. The golden days of 1910 assumed a union of hearts and not merely of institutions. Given patience, good will and favorable circumstances, those hopes might have been realized. But it was not to be. The young nation found itself plunged into the Great War only four years after the achievement of union. Still more significantly, Dutch South Africa was called upon to fight on behalf of Great Britain against Germany less than thirteen years after the termination of the war waged against Great Britain by the Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State -- a war in which they had received the ill-concealed sympathy of the Kaiser and his people. The strain was too great. The old Republics blazed out into rebellion. With extraordinary moral courage Generals Botha and Smuts took the field, in honorable fulfilment of their promises of allegiance, on the side of their ancient foe against their own people. They suppressed the rebellion. But they suppressed it at the cost of incurring immense unpopularity, and of being repudiated by a large section of their former supporters. Their success led to the ultimate triumph of the Nationalist movement under General Hertzog. That movement, seven years after Botha's death, succeeded in hounding Smuts out of office and seizing the reins of government.

When the National Convention met in 1908-9 there was much canvassing of a "federative solution." The delegation of Natal actually laid on the table a draft "British South Africa Act" embodying the federal principle. But the forces working against federation were too strong. The Prime Minister of the Cape Colony, John X. Merriman, with whom financial saving was almost a monomania, was convinced that federalism spelt extravagance. Moreover, the larger colonies -- the Cape and the Transvaal -- contained large numbers of both races, Dutch and English, distributed in such a way as to make it difficult to draw

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