Daily Archives: August 23, 2015

The United Kingdom in the 1880s and 1890s


In 1880 the Conservatives were turfed out. Gladstone became Prime Minister of a Liberal Government.

In 1881 Disraeli died. The Earl of Beaconsfield was afforded an enormous public funeral. Economia were delivered to him by several notable personages. Her Majesty the Queen was known to grieve deeply for him as one of her dearest Prime Ministers. Despite the circumstance surrounding this funeral Gladstone refused to attend claiming to be too busy! This seemed to mark Gladstone out as especially mean spirited and dingenuous.There was no doubt that Gladstone had long harboured a violent dislike of Dizzy Boy. Their styles were different. Disraeli was calculating and flamboyant. He did not pretend to be driven by moral impulses. The Earl of Beaconsfield was a hack novelist. He had moved from Radical to Tory. Gladstone was passionate but reserved. He was seldom seen to smile. He purported to be actuated by the highest ethical motives. Gladstone was had undergone the opposite journey to Disraeli which is why they make such a scintillating contrast. W E Gladstone had been a high Tory – ”the rising hope of the stern unbending Tories” and had ended up a Liberal known as the People’s William. He had set his faces against concessions to Catholic opinion yet at the end of his career embraced the cause of self-determination for the Catholic majority in Ireland.

Disraeli enjoyed a better posthumous reputation than he had in life. The Conservatives founded an organisation called the Primrose League because this was said to be Disraeli’s preferred flower. The Primrose League was a mass organisation in the 19th century and continued until 2004 when it was wound up.

Oxford University Conservatives are known to have made pilgrimages to Hughenden.

In 1880 a dispute arose in South Africa. The Cape and Natal were British colonies. When slavery had been abolished throughout the British Empire most Afrikaners (people of Dutch descent) had left British South Africa. They considered it outrageous that their freedom to deny freedom to others had been denied to them. These Afrikaners had set out on their Great Trek into the hinterland. They founded the Transvaal Republic and the Orange Free State. These twin republics were Afrikaans (i.e. Dutch) speaking. The white Afrikaner minority there held all the political power. The black majority and the few coloured people (mixed race) were shut out of government. The British Empire later regonised the independence of these countries in exchange for them abolishing slavery. Despite the formal end of slavery little changed for the black community in these lands.

In 1880 the British Government wished to extend its control over the Orange Free State and the Transvaal Republic. A brief war erupted. The British Army suffered an ignominious defeat at the Battle of Majuba Hill. The British Empire summoned reinforcements from overseas. The Afrikaners sagely decided to quit whilst they were ahead. They recognised British ”paramountcy” over their states in return for these states retaining self-government. The nebulous notion of paramountcy was to cause grave problems later.

In the 1880s it became obvious that the United States was on the cusp of overtaking the United Kingdom as the pre-eminent industrial nation. The United States had a larger population and a much larger land area. This land are was also rich in natural resources. In the 18th century most scientific discoveries and technological innovations had been British and a few had been French. By the late 19th century most scientific breakthroughs and inventions were American. Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in the United States. Admittedly he was originally British. Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb. The USA was no longer seen as being at the edge of the civilised world. The USA at the cutting edge of science and technology.

In the early 1880s there was a recrudescence of unrest in Ireland. Isaac Butt had died and had been replaced by a charismatic young leader named Charles Stewart Parnell. Gladstone had partly solved the land issue. Agitation and violent crime in the countryside had compelled Gladstone to suspend habeas corpus in Ireland. Parnell had been held in Kilmainham Gaol without trial or charge. However, C S Parnell lived there in considerable comfort. He was not obliged to wear prison uniform. He had a cell to himself and was permitted to bring in his own furniture. The Kilmainham Treaty led to him being set at liberty. Just after Parnell was freed the new Secretary of State for Ireland, Lord Frederick Cavendish, was stabbbed to death by the Invincibles. The Invincibles were a group of IRB men. They proved to be vincible since all were caught and hanged.

The murder of Lord Cavendish caused outrage in Great Britain and to a lesser extent in Ireland. Parnell was horrified and offered to withdraw from public life. Gladstone urged him not to.

The Home Rule Party held most representation in Ireland. Gladstone had been against Home Rule. However, he cogitated deeply on the matter. He went for a cruise around Norway in the summer of 1885. He saw how Home Rule worked in Sweden and Norway. Norway being a part of the Kingdom of Sweden at the time. W E Gladstone became convinced that this was a workable solution for the UK. It would not lead to separation. Little did he know that in 20 years time Norway completely split from Sweden.

In the 1880s Sudan was part of Egypt. The Egyptian Government had little effectual control over Sudan. The Khedive (king) of Egypt had outlawed slavery. Egypt did not enforce Sharia law and was only a fairly observant Muslim country. Its upper classes were known to indulge in alcohol and a Western lifestyle.

In the early 1880s a man known as the Mahdi emerged in the Sudan. He was a poor boat builder from an island on the Nile. He claimed to be a reincarnation of the Prophet Muhammad. He had a gap between his middle teeth which he said was the same as the Prophet. The Mahdi led a revolt against Egyptian rule. He was a persuasive leader and effective rabble rouser. He ambushed government troops and killed them. His men seized the weapons from the dead. Buoyed by early successed the insurrection spread apace.

General Gordon was a British Army officer who had served in China. His success there led to hi having the soubriquet Chinese Gordon bestowed upon him. ”Chinese Gordon” then entered the service of the Khedive. He led the Egyptian Army in Sudan. General Gordon did his damndest to stamp out slavery. This alienated provincial potentates who made their fortunes from attacking tribes without firearms and enslaving these luckless people. The Egyptian Army in in Sudan partly comprised olive skinned Egyptians from Egypt itself. It also had some Sudanese troops who were properly black. The Sudanese mostly spoke Arabic like the Egyptians. The Sudanese were mostly Sunni Muslims. There were some Sudanese in the very south of the country who were animists at that time. About 10% of Egyptians were Christians and they were often wealthy. Egyptians and Sudanese could not be entirely distinguished. Southern Egypt and northern Sudan blurred into each other ethnically. They also shared a language and a faith.

The Mahdi gathered many disciples. They were fired by his revival of fundamentalist Islam and his strident defence of slavery. Here god and mammon were staunch allies.The fact that the Egyptian Army was commanded by a Christian was grist to the mill.

The Mahdists soon won control of much of Sudan. The Egyptian Army in Sudan controlled little more than Khartoum. General Gordon was isolated in Khartoum and the Mahdists tried to intercept his communications with Egypt. Gunboats could sail along the Nile with difficulty. They came under constant attacks from Mahdists. Before long Khartoum was under siege.

News reports reached the United Kingdom of General Gordon’s plight. He was a man of ardent Christian faith. He sent regular letters home. The British newspapers were full of articles about Gordon’s anti-slavery zeal and his plucky stand against the Mahdists hordes. Gladstone came under pressure to relieve Gordon. W E Gladstone pointed out that General Gordon was no longer in the British Army. He was serving in the Egyptian Army. He had chosen to put himself in harm’s way. The Sudan was not British territory. Gladstone asked why British soldiers should die to save an Egyptian soldier? Why should British taxpayers foot the bill for a conflict that did not concern them? Public opinion demanded action. Conservatives capitalised on the situation and cajoled Gladstone into dispatching troops to rescue General Gordon.

Gen Gordon wrote ”Now mark this – all we need is a gunboat with a few British soldiers in red uniforms.”  Chinese Gordon was convinced that the fearsome reputation of the British Army meant that the Mahdists needed to merely see the red tunics and they would lift the siege of Khartoum.

A small number of British soldiers were sent down the Nile to Khartoum. Gen Gordon had sent troops out of Khartoum to harass the enemy. At first this paid dividends. Minor victories were scored over the troops investing Khartoum. But the Egyptians’ luck ran out. They were ambushed and defeated by Mahdists. They got close to Khartoum but had to turn back. They learnt they were several days too late. Khartoum had been taken by storm. Gen Gordon had left his residency with a revolver and sabre. He had met his enemies face to face and gone down fighting. His head was preserved and shown to an Austrian prisoner.

The Mahdists ruled Sudan. Egypt temporarily abandoned Sudan.

There were howls of protests in the UK. Gladstone was denounced. He was no longer GOM – Grand Old Man. He was MOG – Murderer of Gordon. The UK was under no obligation to save Gen Gordon but had assumed that responsibility. Perhaps it would have been wiser not to have been coaxed into sending a relief expedition. Gladstone had been apathetic. This lack of vigour led to failure. That was worse than not trying at all. Gladstone’s dithering on this issue juxtaposed with his moral high tone about Bulgaria a few years before. His moral outrage then seemed feigned and partisan.

The British Government then decided that the Mahdists were wicked and must be defeated. They sent British troops to Egypt. Their objective was to smash the Mahdists. It took a few years to gather sufficient forces and train them. They also had to form a camel corps. A railway would need to be constructed into the Sudan. The man eventually put in charge was Herbert Kitchener.

In 1884 the Third Reform Act was passed. This extended the vote even further. It meant that most working class men had the right to vote. Householders were entitled to vote. That meant a man who owned a house or was responsible for paying the rent was entitled to vote. Sons over the age of 21 living with their fathers were not permitted to vote. Lodgers were excluded from the franchise. There was a residency requirement. This meant that migrant labourers were not alllowed to vote. They did not have the vote because they were seen as too flaky. People needed to be rooted in a constituency in order to understand it. The vote for for people who were stable.

In  June 1885 the Liberals were pushed out of office. William Ewart Gladstone remained leader of the Liberal Party.

A brief Conservative administration was formed. The Marquess of Salisbury became Prime Minister. When he had been Lord Robert Cecil he had been a rival of Gladstone back on Gladstone’s Tory days. Lord Salisbury had difficulty governing since this was a minority administration. He introduced legislation to improve housing for plebeians. This was supposed to be an extension of Disraeli’s condition of England policy. The idea was that the aristocratic dominated Conservative Party was compassionate towards the lower orders and would provide for their welfare. As there were more and more working class voters Lord Salisbury recognised the need to be seen to be doing something for their betterment. Notice the inaccurate usage of ”England”. This was a policy for the whole of the United Kingdom. England constituted a mere 60% of the population of the UK yet ”England” was used as though it were synonymous with the United Kingdom. There was a growing trend for the Liberals to be stronger in the Celtic Fringe – that is to say Scotland, Wales, south-west England and northern England.  Gladstone sat for Mid Lothian at this stage. The triumph of the Home Rulers in Ireland in the 1870s had more or less made the Irish Liberals extinct. The Conservatives, by contrast, were more popular in southern and eastern England. Lord Salisbury was a reactionary by inclination. For instance, he thought it was nonsense to compensate tenants for improving land. Moreover, back in 1867 (when he was Viscount Cranborne) he had resigned from the Conservative cabinet when Disraeli brought in the Second Reform Act. He pursued more moderate policies for strategic reasons. The Marquess Salisbury was a formidable intellectual – being a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. This is the highest accolade in British academe. It is equivalent to being elected to the French Academy. Lord Salisbury was perhaps inevitably an old boy of Eton. His family had risen to prominence under Elizabeth I. Some of the crustiest peers thought that the Cecils (Salisbury’s family) were not noble enough since they had acquired their title only 300 years earlier.

In December 1885 Gladstone’s son Herbert told the Times that his father had converted to the cause of Home Rule for Ireland. It was a bombshell. Up until that moment W E Gladstone had maintained that he was implacably opposed to Home Rule. It could only bring about the partition of the United Kingdom. It would debilitate the empire. The Act of Union passed in 1800 was to last forevermore. That had been his prior position. It was yet another volte-face from this mercurial public man.

The Conservative Government fell in the New Year. Thus in January of the year 1886 the Liberals were back in office. W E Gladstone once more assumed the title of First Lord of the Treasury. Note that at that time ”Prime Minister” was an informal expression. The proper title was First Lord of the Treasury. It was only in about 1910 that the title Prime Minister became official. The new Liberal Government was only viable since it enjoyed the backing of the Irish Home Rulers.

Gladstone then set about introducing Home Rule legislation. This was too much for some Liberals. A significant minority of Liberals decamped at that point. They became known as Liberal Unionists. Their leader in the Commons was Joseph Chamberlain. This former Lord Mayor of Birmingham had come from a working class family and entered politics on the radical end of Liberalism. Chamberlain’s reputation was such that he earned the handle ”Radical Joe.” The most prominent Liberal peer to break away from the party over Home Rule was the Marquess of Hartington. This fissure among Liberalism was to cost it dear.

The Irish Home Rule Party naturally supported the bill. Some Conservatives had toyed with the notion of adopting Home Rule. Among them was Lord Randolph Churchill. There had been clandestine consultations with Parnell over this. Lord Churchill in the end opted to be a forthright opponent of Home Rule. He did so for entirely cynical reasons. ”The Orange card will be the one to play. Please God it shall be the ace and not the two.” Churchill and many other Conservatives realised that most people in the South of Ireland wanted Home Rule. That much was incontestable. The Conservatives reognised that one of the main flaws in the Home Rule plan was Ulster. In Ireland northern province most people were Protestants and Unionists. This was especially so in the eastern half of Ulster. Conservatives wished to scotch Home Rule for the whole of Ireland but at the very least for Ulster. Churchill notoriously said at a rally that if Home Rule were forced on Ulster then, ”Ulster will fight and Ulster will be right.”

In 1886 the Home Rule Bill was defeated in the House of Commons. Liberal Unionists had the swing votes. If all Liberals had voted for Home Rule then it would have passed.

The Liberal Unionists broke away from mainstream Liberalism for several reasons. Home Rule was the occasion of the split but not the sole cause. The schism was multi factorial. For starters Gladstone had been leader of the party for nigh on 20 years. Some people disliked his moralising and abrasive style. There was an element of opportunism in the split. Joseph Chamberlain fancied himself as Liberal leader and there appeared to be no sign of Gladstone retiring despite being aged 76 at the time of the schism. Gladstone’s crusading foreign policy irked others especially when he did not manage to save Gordon.

In 1886 there was an election. The Conservatives won handily. It was their first general election victory for 12 years. The Conservatives did especially well in regions where Protestant fundamentalism was widespread. This included southern Scotland. Conservative rhetoric was that the Protestant minority in Ireland would be mistreated by the Catholic majority if Home Rule were passed.

Lord Salisbury came back as Prime Minister. He formed a government of Conservatives and Liberal Unionists. The Liberal Unionists remained Liberals in most policies except that they were against Home Rule. The Conservatives therefore needed to compromise with their coalition partners.

Conservatives spoke about Tory Democracy. This was a phrase beloved of Lord Randolph Churchill. It was largely furphy. Their slogan was ”trust the people” because they claimed that Liberals would take away personal freedom.

Lord Sailsbury’s government passed law to try to ameliorate the lot of ordinary people. There was the Contagious Diseases Act and the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act. The great bearded Lord Salisbury felt contempt for working class voters. He lamented ”the wholesale deglutition of insincere promises … shaking hands with the grimy wife and the sluttish daughter.” He said that the proletariat was characterised by ”vulgarity, venality, drunkenness.” Lord Salisbury saw the need to offer something to working class voters that they could easily understand. He did not want to increase taxation in order to spend more on assisting the needy. His solution was populist imperialism. Fortunately for him the United Kingdom was at the apex of its might. The British gained more territory in Africa. Cecil Rhodes in South Africa helped the British South Africa Company expand British rule north of the Limpopo. Two new colonies were added to the empire. They were called Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia. Nowadays they are named Zimbabwe and Zambia. Southern Rhodesia’s capital was named Salisbury to honour the Prime Minister. Lord Salisbury had disdain for ”villa Tories” who were lower middle class people who voted for his party. He was conscious that they needed to be appeased to keep them on board. Much of the popular press was pro- Conservative. Compulsory schooling meant that by the 1890s the great majority of adults were literate.. Newspapers were cheap and increasingly well illustrated. Railways and telegraphs meant that news and newspapers could travel quickly. The public were growing more aware of what was occurring in far flung parts of the world.

The third Marquess of Salibury was also aware that although the United Kingdom was at its zenith this could not last. His perspicacity was extreme. He was perceptive in predicting that the United States and Germany would only pull further ahead of the UK in terms of economic prowess. He was the man to coin the phrase ”splendid isolation.” He did so not to describe his policy but to say that that had been Britain’s policy heretofore. The United Kingdom needed to seek a powerful ally. In the 1890s some flirted with the notion of an alliance with Germany. In the end that came to nothing.

The Home Rule movement ran out of steam in the late 1880s. Then came the O’Shea divorce scandal. The Home Rule Party was then hopelessly split. There was a rancorous row between Parnellites and anti-Parnellites. Parnell died in 1892 but the division within the party was not healed for a further ten years. Given the level of animosity between the two camps it is a minor miracle that they managed to reunite so soon.

In 1892 there was another election. The Liberals were returned to office. Gladstone was Prime Minister once more. Again he introduced a Home Rule Bill to Parliament. It squeaked through the House of Commons. Tory peers in the House of Lords voted it down.  Gladstone remained Prime Minister until 1894. He was very infirm by then so he retired. The new Prime Minister was the Earl of Roseberry. This Scottish peer was also an Old Etonian.

Lord Rosberry led the Liberal Party into the 1895 election. The Liberals were bested by the Conservatives and their Liberal Unionist allies.

The Marquess of Salisbury became Prime Minister once more. There was much British consolidation in Africa.

Lord Alfred Milner was sent to South Africa as the High Commissioner. He was determined to bring the Orange Free States and the Transvaal Republic fully within the empire. This was especially so since a few years earlier gold and diamonds had been discovered there. The President of the Transvaal  Paul Kruger lamented this find. He was known as ”Oom” (old) Paul and noted for his cunning and steadfastness.  He said that these riches would be the source of endless trouble. People chided him that he was wishing away wealth. Oom Paul as he was known said that he would rather have a virtuous people than people plagued by avarice which only brings war. Many Britishers moved into the Transvaal and Orange Free State but were not allowed to vote. The Afrikaners were worried that Britons would vote for these lands to fully integrate into the British Empire. The Afrikaners (Dutch speaking whites) were sometimes called Boers. Boer means ”farmer” in Afrikaans. An Afrikaner was called a Boer even if he did not work as a farmer.

In 1895 Cecil Rhodes – Prime Minister of South Africa – hatched a plot. Cecil Rhodes had a doctor named Leander Starr Jameson. Dr Jameson would lead a party of several hundred horsemen to overthrow the Afrikaner republics and seize their land for the British Crown. Dr Jameson would inspire his men by reading a false telegram telling his followers that it was a plea for rescue from British women and children who had been held hostage by heavily armed Boers. The British in the Transvaal would welcome Dr Jameson’s force with open arms. They would rebel against Boer tyranny.

It is believed that Her Majesty’s Government were in on the plot. They did not formally bless it. There was a nod and a wink. This was plausible deniability. Had it succeeded then the government would be glad to reap the reward. If it ended in fiasco then the government could claim it had no foreknowledge of this escapade.

In December 1895 Dr Jameson and his merry men set out to conquer the Transvaal. However, they were easily defeated by the Transvaalers. Jameson and his men were surrounded and compelled to surrender. Many Transvaalers wanted Dr Jameson to stand trial for levying war against them. He was not a soldier fighting in the army. He had not invaded the Transvaal by order of the Queen. As he had no legal grounds for using violence he was a terrorist and should be executed. President Kruger was smart enough not to martyr Dr Jameson. He released him to British custody despite howls of protest from irate Afrikaners.

Dr Jameson was sent back to the United Kingdom in handcuffs. To zealous imperialists he was a hero for his audacious attempt to liberate his fellow Britishers from Afrikaner tyranny. The Conservative Government was embarrassed by what he had done. It was worse than aggression. It was a failure. The Liberals were seized with moral indignation at his unlawful act. He had launched an unprovoked attack on a country with which the UK had normal diplomatic relations. Moreover, it made the UK a laughing stock. Rival imperial powers were gratified to see egg on Britain’s face. The Kaiser of Germany sent a congratulatory telegram to President Kruger.

Dr Jameson was found guilty at his trial in the United Kingdom. He was sentenced to only 15 months in prison. He was lucky not to have been executed in South Africa.

The Matabele in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) rebelled just after the failure of the Jameson Raid. This was because the Matabele were perceptive and saw that there were very few British soldiers and policemen left in Zimbabwe.

There was not enough evidence at the time to implicate Cecil Rhodes in the Jameson Raid. Rhodes’ brother was resident in the Transvaal (a former army officer) and had been involved in the plot. Cecil Rhodes undoubtedly egged on the conspiracy but this was not proven at the time.

Many British miners moved into the Transvaal and Orange Free States. These states allowed foreign white Protestant men the vote but only after 14 years residency.

The British Government pressed the Afrikaner states to reduced the residency requirements to 5 years. The Afrikaner states were prepared to make concessions. They offered to lower the residency requirement to 9 years. For the British this was insufficient. The drumbeat of war was started. The Afrikaner governments foresaw the possibility of war so they imported weapons. They were especially glad to get their hands on Mausers. These were new rifles from Germany. Crucially Mausers were smokeless. The fact that these rifles did not give off smoke meant that a sniper would be very hard to detect.

The British Army summoned more troops from around the globe. Tensions rose precipitously. Some Britishers wanted to avenge the humiliation of the Jameson Raid. Both sides foresaw the distinct possibility of war. The Afrikaners came to see war as unavoidable. They decided to fight it on their terms before the British were fully ready.

In October 1899 the Afrikaaner Government issued an ultimatum. They demanded that the British Army withdraw all troops who had entered South Africa since March.. The British were given 3 days in which to comply or there would be war.

Lord Salisbury said that the British Empire could not possibly accept such a demand. The Empire had taken no offensive action against the Afrikaner states. No British soldier had crossed the border. Not a shot had been fired.

The deadline expired and the Afrikaners attacked into British South Africa. At first the Boers scored some easy victories. They also surrounded some British garrisons such as at Ladysmith and Mafeking. The Afrikaners made the mistake of properly investing these towns. The should have left enough men to keep the British bottled up in these towns and then sued the remaining Afrikaner troops to press on to the coast. If the ports could be seized then the British Army would be prevented from bringing in reinforcements. The Afrikaners became mired in siege warfare. They did not have heavy artillery.

There was black week – three British defeats in one week. The war was going terribly for the British. Australia, New Zealand and India all sent troops to help. After a few months plenty of imperial troops arrived. Thereafter the British (i.e. including Indians, New Zealanders and Australians) held a decisive numerical advantage over their enemies.

Mafeking was relieved. When the siege was lifted this caused rejoicing in the United Kingdom. The word mafeking briefly came to mean celebration in British slang.

The British numerical superiority and firepower began to tell. The Afrikaners lost come conventional battles. The cities of the Transvaal and Orange Free State were all taken. The Afrikaners resorted to guerrilla warfare. They fought in units called commandos.

The commandos were highly mobile cavalry. They fought on the veldt – the hills and in the bush. Afrikaner civilians (including their black servants) acted as auxiliaries to the commandos. They brought them food and ammunition. They carried dispatches and acted as scouts and spies. The British began to detain Afrikaner civilians and black people who were the employees of Afrikaners. They were held in what were called concentration camps. This had nothing to do with what a concentration camp was in the Third Reich. These was to keep them from being killed in the crossfire. It was also to feed them. As agriculture had largely been abandoned there were acute food shortages. There was an ulterior purpose to this – to prevent these civilians acting as support for the commandos.

Many Afrikaner civilians died in these camps. They were largely a diffuse population. They went from living in communities of a few dozen to a camp of tens of thousands. This brought them into contact with diseases as never before. Some Afrikaners saw they could not win the war and they capitulated. They were reviled as ”Hands oopers” (hands uppers) by those who opted to fight on. Those who decided to continue fighting were called ”Bitter enders.”

If a man surrendered his family in the camp was well fed. If the father of a family did not surrender then his family were fed half rations.

Soon there was an outcry over the death rate in the camps. Asquith, a Liberal MP, denounced the system. He said, ”this war for freedom is fought by methods of barbarism.” This led to him being detested by Conservatives. Some Liberals supported the war but opposed the tactics used which they said were ungentlemanly. Radical Liberals such as David Lloyd George was an outright opponent. Lloyd George spoke at a rally in Birmingham Town Hall where he decried the war. A Conservative crowd gathered outside. They were so irate that the police were worried they would tear Lloyd George apart. A policeman swapped clothes with Lloyd George to allow him to slip out unrecognised.

Wedgwood Benn was a Liberal student who protested against the war. An angry group of nationalists surrounded his room in London and he was lucky to escape without a beating.

Herbert Kitchener was put in charge of the war effort. To defeat the commandos he had a barbed wire fence built. This kept the commandos in certain areas. There was a block house every few miles. This was a minifort. The soldiers there were to see that the commandos did not cut the fence. If they did cut the fence it would soon be discovered. The blockhouse was sufficiently well-defended that it would take a commando at least a couple of hours to capture it. By that time the alarm would be raised by the sound of gunfire and reinforcements would arrive.

Britain’s reputation abroad suffered grievously. In Germany, France and the United States opinion was overwhelmingly pro-Boer. The press in their countries satirised British incompetence and lambasted the British for their alleged cruelty. Churchill travelled to the USA to give a speech in Chicago. The audience was chiefly comprised of Irish-Americans. Most of them were pro-Boer mainly out of anglophobia. Churchill avoided a very negative reaction by being effusive in his laud for the Irishmen in the British Army.

In May 1902 negotiations were conducted. The Peace of Vereeniging was signed. This is the name of a town in South Africa. It means ”unity” in Afrikaans. The terms were lenient towards the Boers. They were paid millions of pounds on compensation for the destruction of their property. The Union of South Africa was created. South Africa was divided into several provinces. It was all part of the British Empire. South Africa would be allowed to decided if the vote would be extended to non white people. There were already some black men who had the vote in the Cape Colony.

These generous terms were granted because the UK was eager to have done with the war. It was inglorious. The compensation was much less than the cost of carrying on fighting.

Just after the end of the Second South African War Lord Salibsury retired. His nephew became Prime Minister. He was Arthur James Balfour. A J Balfour was one of only three PMs to be a bachelor. He was also an Old Etonian  next year – 1903 – Salisbury died.