Victoria—Boer and Briton
I N the days when Cromwell was ruling Britain with his iron hand, a few stern-faced, silent men sailed out from Holland and landed in South Africa. There they made their home, and there they grew rich and prospered.
In the reign of
So side by side these two races, Dutch and British, spread and prospered. But they could not live together in peace. It seemed as if in all the wide veldt there was not room for both.
I cannot tell you here of all the quarrels and dispeace; of how the different colonies called Orange Free State, Transvaal, Natal, and Cape Colony arose; of how the Transvaal at one time owned British rule and at another did not; of how Britain fought and suffered until at last the long years of unrest and trouble ended in the great Boer War;—I cannot tell you of all this, for it would take too long, and much of it would not seem interesting to you. I will not talk much either about the Boer War, for the tears it caused are hardly dry; the graves it made are hardly green.
All through this book I have tried to give you reasons for the wars of which I have told, and, although now that we have come to our own time it becomes more difficult, I will give you one reason for the Boer War, which you may understand.
From the very beginning of our story you have seen how
Britons have fought for freedom, and how step by step they
have won it, until at last Britons live under just laws and
have themselves the power to make these laws. For it is now
acknowledged that the Briton who pays taxes has the right to
help to frame the laws under which he lives. You remember
how America was lost because King
Now the Transvaal was a republic, and the government was in
the hands of the Boers, as the South African Dutch had come
to be called. Yet in some vague way the Boers owned the
Queen of Britain as
You have heard how Britons for centuries had fought for this very freedom which was now denied them in South Africa, and you can imagine how hard it was for Britons to bear what seemed to them so great an injustice. This is only one reason why the Boers and Britons could not live in peace together, but it is one which you can understand. The Boers, too, had their troubles and their grievances, and, when war came, they fought as patriots fight for their country.
The British in South Africa appealed at last to the
mother-country for help. The mother-country gave help, and
It was a dreadful war, and lasted for two years and a half. We have not yet forgotten the days of sick suspense during the long months when Ladysmith and "brave little Mafeking" were besieged; nor the gloom which fell upon us as we read of disaster and defeat; nor the cheers and sobs which greeted the news of the relief of Ladysmith and then of Mafeking.
But in the darkest hour one thing became certain. The little island was not fighting alone. The Empire of Greater Britain was no mere name. From all sides, from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, from every province of Greater Britain, from every land over which the Union Jack floats, came offers of help. Britain was fighting, not for herself, but for her colony, and right or wrong, her colonies stood by her, side by side, and shoulder to shoulder.
At length the dark days passed, and the whisper of peace was heard. It was a whisper which grew louder until it was plainly heard.
The Boer leaders gathered at a place called Vereeniging to talk together over the terms of peace. Vereeniging means "union," so it seemed a good place at which to have the meeting. The Boers were treated as the guests of the British, who prepared a camp for them and did everything for their comfort, but as they were led to the camp, through the British lines, the Boers were blindfolded and guarded by soldiers of the Black Watch. This was done because the Boers might not have agreed to make peace, and then the knowledge they had gained of the British camp would have helped them greatly.
The meeting lasted about ten days, but at last, on Sunday,
The south of Africa is now entirely a British colony, and we hope that soon it will be as loyal, as happy, and as prosperous as any other British colony.
Queen Victoria reigned for sixty-three years, which is longer than any other British sovereign has ever reigned. When she had been on the throne fifty years, great rejoicings were held.
On the 21st of June, the anniversary of the day upon which
she ascended the throne, the streets and houses were
everywhere decorated, and bonfires and
Ten years later Victoria was still upon the throne, and
again the people rejoiced. The whole air was filled with
shouts and cheers as the white-haired lady, who was Queen of
half the world, drove through the streets of London on her
Three years later, while the dark war cloud still hung over the land, the news was flashed through all the great empire, "The Queen is dead." At the close of a dull winter's day, the sad toll of muffled bells rang out the message to every town and village; and from east to west, wherever the flag of red, white, and blue floats, hearts were sad.