Source: German Diplomatic Documents, 1871-1914, selected and translated by E.T.S. Dugdale, Volume III, "The Growing Antagonism, 1898-1910," (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1930), pp. 82-105.
From the beginning of 1899 onwards, relations between England and the Transvaal Government once again became worse. In addition to the unsatisfactory negociations about the Republic's claim for indemnity for the Jameson Raid at the end of 1895, there were also points of difference in the question of continuing the dynamite monopoly, but above all, in the British Uitlanders' complaints at the withholding of political rights. On March 21st, 1899, Mr. Chamberlain, the Colonial Minister, had, in contradistinction to Lord Salisbury, from the beginning favoured an active policy with regard to the Transvaal. In a House of Commons speech he uttered bitter complaints, almost amounting to threats, against the Government of the Boer Republic. In reply to Chamberlain's speech of March 24th, President Kruger actually suggested that the Uitlanders' grievances, when viewed aright, were, at bottom, merely a pretext. 'They wanted the country to be given to England' [English in text]. President Kruger was, as a matter of fact, not altogether unaware of the necessity of concessions in the Uitlander question. From the start the German and Dutch Governments had urged the Transvaal Government to make such concessions as were possible in this direction.
[It will be found useful to refer to the' Times ' History of the Boer War. Vol. I.; Worsfold, Lord Milner's Work in South Africa, and Sir L. Michell's Life of Cecil J. Rhodes, Vol. II. 'President Kruger . . . was determined not merely to set himself against all measures of reform, but to increase the disabilities under which the Uitlanders had hitherto lived.'--Worsfold, p. 103.]
BERNHARD VON BULOW, IN BERLIN, TO THE EMPEROR WILLIAM, AT URVILLE, May 10th, 1899
In view of recent expressions of opinion in the British papers concerning the Transvaal, I telegraphed to Your Majesty's Ambassador in London, the head of our Consulate at Cape Town and Your Majesty's Consul at Pretoria to report by telegraph on the present state of relations between England and the Transvaal.
The Ambassador in London answers:
'The information that I have collected contains no certain symptom of any immediate intention on Mr. Chamberlain's part of taking action against the Transvaal. Nor do I think that, considering the present political situation in Europe, Lord Salisbury would desire it. In the opinion, moreover, of our Military Attaché (Baron von Lüttwitz), who is making a report, the British have at present not anything like sufficient military forces in South Africa to attack the Transvaal with a prospect of success, and they do not appear so far to be preparing to reinforce them. Under these circumstances, I am inclined to believe the information that Mr. Chamberlain is addressing a strongly worded note to the Transvaal Government, but wishes to send it by post so as to avoid any appearance of an ultimatum. I learn that capitalists here meanwhile wish to persuade President Kruger to return a conciliatory reply and give way, and that they hope to succeed. On this and on the measure of the concessions to be granted to the Uitlanders I think that the further development of affairs will depend here. If the concessions are really insufficient, we must be prepared to see Chamberlain exploit the situation, both for exciting public opinion here and for forcing the Government to intervene in a way which may lead to a conflict. Moreover, it seems not impossible that in the event of success, England might seek to gain further advantages direct or indirect, --perhaps in connection with Delagoa Bay--which would affect our interests and be at variance with the spirit of the Anglo-German agreement. If the conflict is really in sight (The EMPEROR: 'Not until it has actually broken out.') it might perhaps be advisable for us to approach the British Government in a suitable form with regard to due respect for our interests, as secured by treaty.'
Your Majesty's Consul at Cape Town telegraphs: 'The great tension which has existed between England and the Transvaal for several weeks is due to Chamberlain, Sir [sic] C. Rhodes and the jingoes, who by provocation and threats of war, are trying to induce the Transvaal Government to give way entirely on the Uitlanders question during the present session of the Volksraad.
'There is no immediate danger of war, since every reason for war is lacking. But it is clear that at bottom Mr. Chamberlain desires war with the Transvaal and is trying to lead them into some step which will give an excuse for it. The Governor, who moreover is a tool of Chamberlain's, and the Ministers here are employing their influence in England and the Transvaal to prevent war, which would spread over the whole of South Africa. Feeling is quieter here owing to the news of Chamberlain's departure.'
Your Majesty's Consul at Pretoria reports:
'Government believes Chamberlain desires war, but hopes and wishes to maintain peace; it is, meanwhile, busily preparing defences. Feeling of the Boers against England. Johannesburg evidently much excited, and reckless fighting and destruction of enemy property to be expected. Support by Dutch elements in [South] Africa possible.
'Secret. Negociations are in hand for a meeting between Kruger and Mimer at Bloemfontein. I do not yet believe in war.'
At the end of May President Kruger and Governor Mimer met; but after lasting several days the meeting broke up without result. For Milner's detailed report see Staatsarchiv, LXIII, 263.
BERNHARD VON BULOW, IN BERLIN, TO COUNT HATZFELDT, IN LONDON, July 4th, 1899
In agreement with the two last sentences in your telegram of May 9th, I invited the Dutch Government very confidentially, when it was in the act of offering conciliatory advice in its own name to President Kruger at Pretoria, to add that Germany also advised all possible conciliation. This overture was made to the President, who replied as follows:
He gratefully acknowledged the Dutch Government's friendly advice; he would give way as far as was at all possible, but could not renounce his country's independence. In the matter of the franchise he was ready to make far-reaching concessions, but could not admit that persons who were British subjects could have the right to vote in the Transvaal; it would be equivalent to admitting the suzerainty of England. He was ready to reduce the interval for acquiring the franchise from 14 to 9 years, and would later on make it shorter still. But if need be, he was prepared to fight and trusted that now as formerly God would protect the Boers' independence.
I beg you to use your judgment to whom and how far, if at all, you communicate the foregoing in strict confidence, and whether you wish to use Baron von Eckardstein as intermediary. Such a communication--especially if made to the open-hearted Chamberlain or to him and Lord Salisbury--might perhaps afford a clearer insight into the final intentions of the British. Also if the matter were raised by you, it might perhaps remove any ill-temper regarding our motives better than if the fact of our intervention were revealed to the British by any third party.
COUNT HATZFELDT TO THE GERMAN FOREIGN OFFICE, June 7th, 1899
In reply to the telegram of June 4th.
To-day, as on my own initiative, I informed Lord Salisbury confidentially that the Imperial Government together with the Dutch Government had advised President Kruger to show as conciliatory a spirit as possible,' and he begged me to thank Your Highness sincerely. Concerning the conference at Bloemfontein which has recently taken place, Lord Salisbury said that a satisfactory conclusion had not yet been reached, but the ending of the conference did not mean that negociations were broken off, and further ones would probably take place.
On the Stock Exchange the news of the break down of the conference caused a sharp fall to-day. I have good information that the position is thought serious by the Colonial Office, which is busily considering asking for les bons offices of Germany with President Kruger in order to avert a war with the Transvaal, to which la haute finance is strongly opposed.
MEMORANDUM BY BARON VON HOLSTEIN, BERLIN FOREIGN OFFICE, June 8th, 1899
We could not possibly consent to mediate between England and the Transvaal. The dispute cannot be composed, unless one party recedes considerably from its position. If we suggest to the Transvaal concessions which would make bad blood there, we should have unpleasantness with German public opinion. If we advise the British to cease to claim their position as suzerain, we should have to face acute mistrust in our dealings with England.
It would be advisable, therefore, first to wait and see whether we really are requested to mediate, and to make no statements in one sense or the other. If the request really were made, our reply should be somewhat as follows:
Once the fact is made public that Germany and England had come to an agreement about territory in South Africa bordering on the Transvaal, Germany is no longer the one to act as mediator. Any decision not absolutely anti-British would be represented as partial and as the result of concessions made to us by England. It would, therefore, be better for England that we should not let ourselves be pushed into the foreground. As in nearly every other case, so here avoidance of war will most redound to the credit of German interests. As soon as we found, therefore, that the Dutch Government agreed with us on this point, we requested it to forward our friendly advice, along with its own, to Pretoria. Failing the unsuspected support of the Dutch, we might possibly have withheld our advice, in the idea that the impression produced on the Transvaal Government by our South African agreement was sure to weaken the effect of our advice considerably. We considered the North American Republic to be the most suitable mediator of all. For one thing, it stood closest to England at present amongst all civilised states. In the state and social life in America, on the other hand, the Dutch element still occupied a prominent position to-day. This circumstance, as well as the republican form of government, would naturally inspire the Boers with confidence.
So much for the draft of the reply to be returned to England, if it is asked for. It might, however, be advisable now immediately to publish in the Press the suggestion that America is the proper mediator between England and the Transvaal. Even if the idea were traced back to a German source, it is not obvious how that could hurt us. The suggestion would certainly flatter the Americans, and if it came to nothing owing to England, it would doubtless be a disappointment to them. (B. VON BULOW: 'I quite agree.')
BERNHARD VON BULOW, IN BERLIN, TO FLOTOW, GERMAN CHARGE D'AFFAIRES AT THE HAGUE, June 12th, 1899
...The idea of American mediation certainly first saw the light in one or two British newspapers, so that it cannot be regarded as one which is unfriendly to England. But whether it was British, American or Africander by origin will be hard to determine. It is significant that that suggestion has not been loudly echoed in the British Press, but has been the more freely welcomed in America...
FLOTOW, CHARGE D'AFFAIRES AT THE HAGUE, TO THE CHANCELLOR, PRINCE VON HOHENLOHE, June 14th, 1899
At to-day's reception by the Minister de Beaufort, I was able... to discuss the Transvaal question with him. M. de Beaufort spoke of the affair with the lively interest which I have always remarked in him, and which is actually caused by his long-standing personal friendship with President Kruger.
The Minister did not show any liking for the idea of arbitration by America. The published declarations of British Ministers allowed him no hope that the British Government would ever be willing to admit arbitration by a Foreign Power on this affair. It would force them to desert the principles they had hitherto followed in their relations with the Transvaal and bind their hands in all future disputes with the Republic. There would also be a fear that, owing to its present inclination towards England, the American Government might decide altogether in the sense of the British claims; even now American papers were speaking up for England and against the Transvaal Republic. He imagined that President Kruger also shared this view with him and would regard the idea of arbitration by the United States with suspicion. M. de Beaufort finished by saying that he considered that further developments must be awaited.
Directly after this conversation I was able to see the Minister's Chef de Cabinet and reported my conversation with M. de Beaufort to him in confidence. I found him much more inclined to entertain the idea of American arbitration. He thought the Imperial Government's arguments very much worth considering and point~d to the United States, as the only Power suitable under the circumstances to act as arbitrator. In England also they were perhaps not so likely to reject the idea, since they were evidently embarrassed there as to what attitude to assume. Owing to the attitude of Cape Colony, there were strong objections against a war; but if the British Government failed to take any energetic steps now at once, the prestige they would lose in South Africa would be incalculable. M. Ruyssenaers said quite spontaneously that he would not think it a bad plan if M. de Beaufort sent for Mr. Leyds and discussed the idea of American arbitration with him. He would himself in any case talk the matter over with the Minister again.
Considering the decision with which the Minister gave his opinion, I should not anticipate any too great success for this gentleman's attempt to turn him. Meanwhile, it may perhaps be well to give him a few days to let his suggestive influence work on the Minister.
FLOTOW, AT THE HAGUE, TO THE GERMAN FOREIGN OFFICE, June 22nd, 1899
Dutch Minister in Paris informs M. de Beaufort that Mr. Leyds called on him and informed him that President Kruger does not consider the present moment yet suitable for calling in American mediation.
COUNT VON BULOW, IN BERLIN, TO FLOTOW, AT THE HAGUE, July 4th, 1899
Count Hatzfeldt telegraphs that he considers the prospect of peace in the Transvaal affair very doubtful, because, though the majority in the British Ministry is against war, it is tied by Mr. Chamberlain's public action which the Government permitted. In consequence of this, it is forced to allow certain substantial concessions to avoid the risk of being blamed for a shameful retreat. Also, any news of disturbances in Johannesburg and of their suppression would--rightly or wrongly--incline public opinion more towards war than has been the case hitherto. The present condition of relative quiet cannot last any longer, in Count Hatzfeldt's opinion.
The contents of the telegram indicate that the Ambassador thinks that the Transvaal ought to hesitate no longer with the moderate concessions necessary to prevent war; otherwise it will be too late.
Please report Count Hatzfeldt's views in the right quarter, without special instructions.
On July 28th, 1899, the Transvaal question was debated in both Houses of Parliament. In the House of Commons Mr. Chamberlain declared outright that England's condition for not intervening was that the Transvaal Government should proceed seriously to place the indigenous Dutch population on an equal footing politically with the Uitlanders. In the Lords Lord Salisbury also protested against the differentiated legal status of the Ijitlanders and Dutch. He refused to admit that the London Convention of 1884, on which the Boers based their arguments, was good for an unlimited period. Whilst England had no intention to annul such conventions so long as they were granted an honourable existence, very few Englishmen would wish now to have England's seal stamped on that Convention in its original form.
The Emperor, who was yachting in the North just then, took exception to Lord Salisbury's theory of the Convention, as appears from a telegram, dated Semmering, July 30th, from Count Bulow to the German Foreign Office; he caused Count Hatzfeldt, as well as Count Bulow, to ask for an expression of his opinion on Lord Salisbury's speech.
COUNT HATZFELDT, IN LONDON, TO THE GERMAN FOREIGN OFFICE, July 30th, 1899
In obedience to His Majesty's command to express my opinion on Lord Salisbury's Transvaal speech, I have telegraphed as follows to Count zu Eulenburg at Bergen:
'When I last met Lord Salisbury (The EMPEROR: 'The date? Before or after his House of Lords speech?') he told me in strict confidence that the settlement of difficulties with the Transvaal needed still more time, and that before they were settled there might be unpleasant explanations (The EMPEROR: 'With or without arms? '), but that he did not believe in the inclination recently shown by President Kruger, to resort to war. (The EMPEROR: '!Die Botschaft hôrt ich wohl, allein mir fehit die Glaube.--I heard the message, but I did not believe it.') The speech is thus explained by the need of convincing the Transvaal Government that the British Cabinet is united on the question, and of not relaxing the pressure that this fact should exercise on the councils of President Kruger. As an indication that Lord Salisbury's peaceful tendencies continue to keep the upper hand in the Cabinet, I think it should be pointed out that the Transvaal Government is showing more readiness to negociate and is not refusing unconditionally to go a step beyond its latest concessions. Chamberlain's speech also shows that he wishes to gain time, for in it he said that he had proposed to the Transvaal Government a joint enquiry into the question as to how far President Kruger's latest concessions would give the Uitlanders genuine and immediate representation. (The EMPEROR: 'As Kruger regards himself as the President of an "independent State," such a proposal is an insult.') In the interests of peace it would be desirable for the Transvaal Government to agree to this. (The EMPEROR: 'He cannot do this without giving away everything.')
'Sir Frank Lascelles (on leave in England), who has been constantly meeting all the leading personages here, informed me confidentially on his departure that he was taking away a decided impression that the danger of war complications no longer existed.'
The EMPEROR: 'I greatly regret that I cannot come to this conclusion.--Lord Salisbury put Hatzfeldt off with general phrases, because he was unwilling to lie to him directly and to have to eat his words, if after all he does go to war! He remains as obscure as before! This telegram leaves me just as wise as I was before it! ')
COUNT VON BULOW, AT SEMMERING, TO THE GERMAN FOREIGN OFFICE, July 31st, 1899
For the Emperor.
The speeches of Lord Salisbury and Mr. Chamberlain, in my humble opinion, leave no doubt that the British Government is making demands on the South African Republic over and above the measure of the concessions, already sanctioned by the Boers. It is not out of the question that, rather than endure this limitless pressure, President Kruger might finally prefer a war in which military superiority would at first be on the Boer side. This latter fact may, on the other hand, induce the British not to strain the bow too violently. On their side the Boers cannot but be aware that, in the long run, England is very much the stronger party, and that, once engaged, she must bring it to a victorious conclusion.
On the whole, therefore, I should gather from the recent Transvaal debates in the British Parliament that there will be no war, but that the speeches made at this moment may be taken as a further attempt at intimidation and part of the 'game of bluff'--especially at a moment when even President Kruger himself is not quite at one with his Volksraad. Government and Opposition in England appear to me to be following the same plan--that of making it clear to Boers and Afrikanders that all parties in England are agreed about the South African question--in order to force the Transvaal to grant further concessions. To show that the war-danger is not yet acute, I will mention that up till yesterday Consols had not fallen, indicating that the City does not believe in a war.
I hope that the theory of the Convention set up by Lord Salisbury may only be taken as meaning: 'War destroys treaty.' Otherwise, and if made to apply generally, the British Prime Minister's sentiments would effectually diminish the value of British treaty arrangements and promises.
The possibility of a serious conflict in South Africa will make the British more compliant and certainly more careful when dealing with Russia. Even in the event of war in South Africa, the British Government would be very unwilling to go as far as to denude India, owing to the distrust of Russia so deeply rooted in England.
[THE EMPEROR WILLIAM, AT WILHELMSHOHE, TO PRINCE VON BULOW, AUGUST 8TH, 1899. EXTRACT. [Published in September, 1928, by the Berliner Tageblatt.]
Best thanks for your interesting communication. The most astounding thing--if no longer anything like most surprising--is the doing of the fat English Premier (Lord Salisbury). Three weeks ago full of anxiety, attention, and heartfelt longing for conversation with me, now precisely the reverse. I assume it is a sign that his old woman (Seine Alte) is regaining her strength, for she directs him, and the British petticoats seem in general to house a wind which blows contrary to me and my attempts. Well, that will just have to be borne and reckoned with. Anyhow, it is very good to see what sort of impression it makes among the promenaders of Europe when we greet Madame Gallia on parade and she puts her parasol on the other side, and nods and even stops a moment and talks to us. That will do more for the peace of Europe than ten Hague Conferences and some dozens of peace-tribunal-privy-judicial-chief arbitration-appeal-conference-sheep's heads.
But La Belle France must still always be very hysterical. For that a hypocritical, energetic warrior like (General) Galliffet, for the sake of God and his post, has implored me to have no compliments for the army and its graves is the most monstrous thing that I have experienced up to the present. The reverse would have appeared to me so natural, so much a matter of course, that I could have interpreted an omission of this action only as a gross lack of tact. And now precisely not. The devil take it.
Anyhow, I beg you to instruct Le Prince de Derenburg (Muenster) to watch like a pointer for the comments which will come out on the i8th in the Paris Press. And so soon as there is only a hint that something ought to have been done in the form proposed by me-but rejected by Galliffet- he must ruthlessly come out with the truth before the public, however nasty that may be for Galliffet. My speech is decently and inoffensively enough drafted, and I won't make further alterations in it.]
COUNT HATZFELDT, IN LONDON, TO THE GERMAN FOREIGN OFFICE, August 9th, 1899
Herr Goerz sends me a copy of a telegram sent to him to-day in English by his Johannesburg agent. It is as follows:
'We hear that the Transvaal Government has not yet replied [to the British proposal for a conference on the franchise question]; it is going to return a very polite answer, but will explain that the Government does not yet see what good an examination of the franchise question alone would do, and will propose a discussion of official questions. We hear that President Kruger informed V. S. Aubert, the French Consul, unofficially that the Government will grant a Commission, if the German, French and Russian Consuls appoint delegates; (The EMPEROR: "No I that would not suit us.") otherwise the risk cannot be avoided that the British Government may interfere in the internal affairs of the South African Republic. We do not believe that the British Government will agree, or that the German Government will be prepared for this step. We have seen Consul Biermann, who said to me privately that he also was inclined to believe this, but he begs me to ascertain, through Goerz' Berlin house, the Foreign Office view of the matter.
'E. Boucher (a Johannesburg Frenchman) and the French Consul have telegraphed to Paris. If the French Government agrees, it is intended that the French in Johannesburg shall present a petition regarding a delegate to their Consul. We hear that the British Government have selected Conynghame Greene, its diplomatic Agent at Pretoria, as their delegate.'...
(The EMPEROR: 'We keep out of it! let the Hague Peace Conference step in.')
BARON VON RICHTHOFEN, IN BERLIN, TO BIERMANN, CONSUL AT PRETORIA, August 10th, 1899.
Whenever you are invited, especially by private interested parties, to make statements about the Anglo-Transvaal conflict, and particularly about the Imperial Government's probable attitude towards this conffict, you will in future maintain the strictest reserve.
After the close of the Hague Peace Conference at the end of July, M. Delcassé [French Foreign Minister] went to St. Petersburg.
COUNT VON BULOW, AT SEMMERING, TO THE GERMAN FOREIGN OFFICE, August 12th, 1899
With reference to the telegram of August 9th from the Imperial Ambassador in London, which quotes Herr Goerz' message, Count Hatzfeldt telegraphs privately:
'The people who are pressing Kruger to demand appointment of Russian, French and German delegates are playing straight into Chamberlain's hands. If Chamberlain says no to this attempt to get rid of the suzerainty claim by means of foreign arbitration, he will have British public opinion behind him and be stronger than ever. Moreover, President Kruger will probably be proved wrong, if he imagines that Russia and France, or France alone, will espouse his cause at the risk of a serious difference with England; and I do not think that here they are seriously worried by it or think that such wifi result from Delcassé's journey. Even the suspicions against Rothschild, which I mentioned confidentially in this connection, will hardly make much difference.
'I do not yet believe in any immediate measures for using military force, even if the Transvaal Government should give an answer referring to foreign intervention, as reported by Goerz. But it might cause us to pass into the second and more dangerous phase of concentration of troops--all the more dangerous, because, after the adjournment of Parliament, the Opposition is no longer effective. It has been Chamberlain's very clever game from the beginning gradually to warm up public opinion, which was at first very cool, in favour of the scheme, to represent himself as the champion of legitimate but extremely moderate demands, and to put the Transvaal Government apparently in the wrong as against England. This has been continuously more and more successful up to a certain point, and neither public opinion nor the more peaceable members of the Cabinet would now seriously oppose decisive action, if Kruger really rejected all enquiry or made it dependent on foreign participation, which would be taken still worse here. Would it not be possible, before it is too late, to make the situation clear to Kruger, either through the Dutch or directly through our Consul? In any case it seems to me essential to avoid all statements which could be pointed to as an intrigue out there for participation against the British proposal. If the suggestion in Goerz' telegram is a true one-that Biermann regards our participation in the appointment of European delegates as improbable, but that he suggested that the house of Goerz should ascertain in Berlin what was the Foreign Office view--such a statement, if it came to the ears of the British Government, would be quite enough to arouse the greatest suspicions against us.'
On the grounds of general policy and in consideration of the Anglo-German Agreement, we must naturally avoid being forced into a false position, both with England and the Transvaal, in connection with the present troubles in South Africa. Consul Biermann's attitude seems rather an unsafe one, and it would be advisable to impress on him once again that Germany will not let herself be dragged into the Transvaal dispute in any form whatever. Herr Biermann can, of course, only have spoken as he did, if the question of European participation in the dispute was discussed with him or in his presence. As for Count Hatzfeldt's suggestion that President Kruger should be warned by the Dutch, it would have to be considered whether, all things being taken into account, a telegram should be sent to Baron von den Brincken, our Minister at the Hague, somewhat as follows:
'The view of the Imperial Ambassador in London, which was communicated to the Dutch Government in June, that, by hesitating to comply, President Kruger would make the Transvaal's position worse and more dangerous, appears to be confirmed. British public opinion, which hitherto championed the peace idea, is beginning to regard the hesitations of the Transvaal Government as a sign of hostile intentions. Moreover, the power to oppose, which lay hitherto in the attitude of the Parliamentary Opposition, will now fall away when Parliament is adjourned. Count Hatzfeldt sees a further danger in the influence on British feeling of the idea, now apparently suggested by the Transvaal Government, to attempt to draw Germany, France and Russia into the unsettled dispute. Germany could not consent to this proposal which, if accepted, would imply German partizanship. The Russian Government has repeatedly declared that South Africa leaves it cold. That France by herself would stand up with the Transvaal against England is improbable, even though President Kruger might have received encouragement from Paris; he certainly possesses no binding and unambiguous promise in writing of armed support by France. We are informed that the British people would regard an appeal to European Powers, who are somewhat held in suspicion in England, as a direct provocation-almost more than would be a definite rejection of the form of enquiry as proposed by England. As for ourselves, we should, out of genuine sympathy for the Boers, prevent President Kruger from playing into the hands of the war party and rushing into a war, the result of which cannot, humanly speaking, be doubtful, considering the isolation of the South African Dutch. Your Excellency will therefore communicate the foregoing to M. de Beaufort immediately and beg him to pass it on in confidence to the Transvaal Government. It would be better to telegraph it to Pretoria than to communicate it to Mr. Leyds. Count Hatzfeldt fears that a decided change in the direction of war is imminent, supposing the Transvaal Government should definitely refuse an enquiry or appeal to the great continental Powers. The Imperial Consul at Pretoria has been instructed direct concerning Germany's abstention.'
The telegram suggested by Bülow was despatched on August 13th.
BARON VON RICHTHOFEN, IN BERLIN, TO BIERMANN, CONSUL AT PRETORIA, August 13th, 1899
Germany is not to be drawn into the Transvaal dispute in any form. But you will naturally not declare this, unless you find fully sufficient and ample reason for doing so--when the question of intervention by the European Powers is discussed with you or in your presence.
The Suzerainty question [see below] was introduced by Chamberlain in a telegram, dated July 13th, 1899, after President Kruger had met Milner, the High Commissioner, at Bloemfontein and insisted on the South African Republic's integrity remaining unquestioned. The introduction of this ominous question at once acted prejudicially on the negotiations. In a telegram (August 19th), Reitz, the Secretary of State of the Republic, rejected the British proposal of a joint Commission to settle the Uitlander question, but of his own initiative offered further concessions, adding a demand that the British Government should cease to assert their Suzerainty. A British note (August 28th), rejecting this demand point-blank, was followed by the Republic's withdrawal (September 2nd) of its offer of concessions in the Uitlander question; whereupon the British Government threatened (September 9th) 'to treat the affair from a fresh standpoint and make some proposals of his own, calculated to bring about a final settlement'. For the text of the notes, see Staatsarchiv, LXIII, 322.
COUNT HATZFELDT, IN LONDON, TO THE EMPEROR WILLIAM, August 27th, 1899
A few days ago it was still generally assumed that a satisfactory answer was to be expected from the Transvaal Government, and that. peace would thus be assured. But now, since President Kruger has placed the suzerainty question in the forefront, the situation has become worse again. It cannot be ignored that by doing so he has played into Mr. Chamberlain's hands, whose efforts for some time have obviously been directed towards exciting public opinion here in favour of energetic action against the Transvaal. For this purpose the franchise question proved insufficient, and I know from a sure source that after the failure of the Bloemfontein conference, Mr. Chamberlain complained to his friends that the public here took little interest in the question and that this indifference had tied his hands. To-day all is changed, for the national consciousness of the British has been stung and wounded by the demand that England shall renounce her suzerainty, and I believe that hardly any Englishman exists, whichever Party he belongs to, who would oppose the maintenance by force of England's control of the Transvaal, if there were any question of it. It would make no difference whether this view is justified by treaties of which most of the public here are probably quite ignorant, and people are satisfied with the assumption that, even though unsupported by any title based on a treaty, England, is 'the paramount Power' in South Africa (The EMPEROR: 'The old English policy of unscrupulous self-interest and clownishness.'), and must keep up her position under all circumstances. This being so, I think it was a decided mistake of the Transvaal Government to introduce this question and to demand a formal renunciation of suzerainty, if it is not ready to fight at once.
In a long confidential conversation which I had yesterday with the Prime Minister this question was touched upon, and his observations showed that he thinks this condition demanded by the Transvaal Government quite unacceptable, but that he does not, on this account, think that further concessions by the Transvaal Government are out of the question, and so far, therefore, he has not given up the hope of maintaining peace. From his whole attitude and the tone of his utterances I gained the impression then, as indeed whenever Mr. Chamberlain is mentioned between us in confidence, that he does not agree with his colleague's aggressive policy in every respect, bears no great personal good will to him, and is not particularly anxious for him to strengthen his political position still further by a successful coup. We cannot, of course, conclude from this that the Prime Minister will oppose the use of force, if the Transvaal Government sticks to a demand which is considered unacceptable here, and if Mr. Chamberlain uses it as a lever for pushing England into a war. It must also be realised that the Prime Minister cannot raise a protest, even if he would, since in this case Mr. Chamberlain would undoubtedly have public opinion on his side.
On the other hand, Lord Salisbury clearly assumes that the decision whether it is to be peace or war is not yet imminent. When I asked how he imagined matters would develop further, he said without hesitation that they would probably drag on for some time to come. Then, in order to draw further remarks from him, particularly as to Mr. Chamberlain's intentions, I said that, as an impartial observer, it was my impression that the Colonial Secretary had manceuvred very cleverly from his own point of view, so as to arouse public feeling, which was at first very cool, in favour of the energetic action which he desired. Lord Salisbury admitted willingly that this idea was correct and proved that I had been following developments attentively. He added that even in London there had been a party inclined for war from the beginning; whereas in the country, especially in the North, feeling had been in favour of peace.
Referring to an article which appeared recently in the Standard, denying
the accusation that England wished to possess the Transvaal, on the ground that,
apart from the mines, the country was quite valueless, I said in joke that if
this assertion was true, it could hardly be brought into line with Mr. Chamberlain's
keenness in endeavouring to bring this valueless country under British control
in some form. The Prime Minister laughed heartily at my remark and did not deny
its correctness. Nor did he deny it at all when I suggested the possibility
that the Transvaal Government was perhaps under the impression that, even if
it now gave way in everything, Mr. Chamberlain would sooner or later find a
reason for starting a fresh discussion and for reducing its independence still
further. (The EMPEROR:
On this occasion Lord Salisbury spoke with much irritation of Schreiner, the Cape Minister, who had been letting through arms and munitions for the Transvaal Government behind the back of Sir Alfred Milner. It was unheard of that this could happen in a British colony. Moreover, the Transvaal Government was already so well supplied with arms as to able to equip every Burger who would bear arms with two rifles. Of course, it might still be in want of ammunition, which explained the tactics practised at Pretoria of protracting the negociations with England in order to gain time. Hence also the irritation at the behaviour of the Portuguese, who were holding up the transport of munitions intended for the Transvaal. I quietly refrained from expressing an opinion on this point.
As our conversation proceeded, M. Delcassé's journey to St. Petersburg came under discussion, also England's relations towards Russia, and I consider it right to repeat Lord Salisbury's words on the subject and also an opinion be expressed regarding conditions in France, since, if I may be allowed to judge, they are not without bearing on England's present attitude in the Transvaal question.
Having said that so far he had learnt nothing definite as to the motive of this journey, but that he could not quite share in the view which, according to his information, was put about in St. Petersburg, that the journey was merely due to motives of personal vanity, he volunteered a kind of exposition of the relations between Count Muravieff and the British Ambassador (Sir Charles Scott), of the present attitude of the Russians towards England, and of the political situation in Russia. First he said that, as I knew, the personal relations between Sir Charles Scott and the Russian Foreign Minister were of the friendliest. Moreover, Russia's attitude towards this country had been not at all unfriendly of late, and, strange as it might seem, the Russian Emperor had been showing consideration for British interests in China. These the Minister did not describe more closely. (The EMPEROR: 'This was done to impress us.') Lord Salisbury then argued that Russia was now unable to undertake any great political enterprise abroad. The famine in Russia was much more serious than was generally supposed and was engaging the resources and attention of the Government. Added to this was the lack of money, for which M. Witte had so far found no cure.
The Minister now turned to conditions in France, and said emphatically and with unmistakable contempt that they could only be described as complete chaos. The present pretenders [to autocratic power] were personally so insignificant, that they clearly had no prospect of success. So far no other outstanding personality had been found in France with a prospect of taking the lead successfully. Until this happened, there could hardly be a change in the situation in France, and it could not be expected that the French, as they now were, would play a decisive part in European politics.
Though Lord Salisbury limited himself to this exposition and omitted to add any deductions from it, it is clear, if I am not mistaken, that his object was to show me that England now thinks that her hands are free and sees no reason to fear interference from Russia and France jointly, and certainly not from France alone. (The EMPEROR: 'Correct.')
I venture to suggest that this view of the European situation is not a pleasant one for our interests here, since the British now see no reason for making any great sacrifice for our friendship. (The EMPEROR: 'Correct.') The wish to be on good terms with Germany is fairly general amongst the public and is, according to my information, shared by most of the Cabinet. But the realisation that England must make appropriate sacrifices for it will not come until bad times arrive and England is forced to recognise that she has no alternative but to be friends with Germany. (The EMPEROR: 'It is interesting that in his lecture on the upsetting of the balance between the Powers the Premier forgot India and Persia. If there is a Transvaal war, the Russians will make themselves felt there! Then the value of our friendship will rise in the market, especially in London! ')
An immediate outbreak of war in South Africa is hardly imaginable, unless the Transvaal Republic begins it. From all that I hear, confirmed also by the reports of Captain Baron von Lüttwitz, all measures have been prepared here for war, but once the orders are given, the carrying out of them will certainly take a longish time. The forces now in South Africa are quite insufficient to undertake an attack, and it is not at all unlikely that an attack under such circumstances would be followed by a serious defeat. Thus it may be presumed also that the negociations will continue meanwhile, and it would be desirable in the Republic's interests that the President should realise two things firstly, that the defeat of the Republic is merely a matter of time when England's resources are considered; and, secondly, and--most important--that the inevitable result of defeat would be, if not annexation, complete loss at any rate of any sort of independence.
I have good information that Her Majesty Queen Victoria passionately desires to end her long reign in peace and not to be involved in a European war, and that she looks with anxiety and suspicion on any sign that arouses her fears that England may be involved in war with Russia and France. I think I may assume that Lord Salisbury, who stayed at Osborne two days ago to make his report, reassured the Queen during this visit and told her, as he has told me, that even in the event of war with the Transvaal, no interference by France or Russia, and therefore no conffict with them, are to be feared.
I will mention, as being curious, that at this critical moment Mr. Chamberlain is remaining at Birmingham, whilst Lord Salisbury is in residence at Walmer Castle, near Dover, and only rarely comes up to London for a few hours. He gave me a meeting yesterday, and I thought it my duty not to mention it, as he had refused appointments with the other foreign representatives. On parting he said to me that he would not come up during the whole of next week and would regard himself as being on leave. This will make my task of discussing our business with him considerably more difficult.
COUNT VON BULOW, IN BERLIN, TO BARON VON DEN BRINCKEN, AT THE HAGUE, August 29th, 1899
In a private letter, written the day before yesterday in the evening, Count Hatzfeldt writes:
'Even now I do not yet believe in war, given that they have not gone mad at Pretoria. Salisbury certainly does not want war, if he can avoid it; but he will be driven into it, if Kruger insists on the suzerainty being definitely renounced. By so doing, he is doing Chamberlain the greatest service, whereas the latter will tumble into the gutter if Kruger renounces it. The Boers ought to be satisfied with letting existing treaties remain in force, perhaps with a reservation that any differences of opinion which may creep in should be decided by a legal tribunal. To-day the chances are that the Transvaal will be defeated and then lose everything.'
Please communicate the above to M. de Beaufort immediately, with a request to pass on the contents to Pretoria--but not to compromise Count Hatzfeldt.
At the meeting of September 8th the Cabinet discussed the reply to the Transvaal Government's note of September 2nd--which reply (September 9th) was one of rejection and thereby intensified the crisis; also, and especially, the question of military preparation for the war which now appeared highly probable. As telegraphed by Hatzfeldt on September 9th, it was decided to send 10,000 men, including 6,000 from India, to South Africa.
COUNT HATZFELDT, IN LONDON, TO THE GERMAN FOREIGN OFFICE, September 8th, 1899
The result of to-day's Cabinet Council has been kept very secret. From words used to-day by Lord Salisbury, I have the impression that he has not quite given up hope of a peaceful settlement. He admitted freely that no ships had yet been chartered for the transport of troops and that it would take more time still to fit them out.
My present impression is that an energetically worded reply will be handed to the Transvaal Government and that a few thousand men will be sent to South Africa, in order to increase the pressure, but that negotiations will not entirely be broken off.
As regards the Queen's feelings, Lord Salisbury told me very confidentially that Her Majesty earnestly desired to urge peace upon her Government, but she had in no way forgotten nor got over the Majuba defeat in February, 1881.
I am reliably informed that in a telegram to-day to one of his political friends here Mr. Rhodes expressed a conviction that the Transvaal Government would end by giving in.
BARON VON RICHTHOFEN, IN BERLIN, TO THE EMPEROR WILLIAM, AT MAGDEBURG, September 13th, 1899
Your Majesty's Ambassador in London telegraphs:
'Referring to the Transvaal situation Lord Salisbury has just told me in strict confidence that he does not even now believe in a war. (The EMPEROR: 'Then why all this transport of troops from India?') He said that Chamberlain's latest note did not mention the question of suzerainty.'
COUNT HATZFELDT, IN LONDON, TO THE GERMAN FOREIGN OFFICE, September 14th, 1899
I hear from the City to-day that war is generally expected there, and that there has been a considerable fall in prices on the Stock Exchange. Definite grounds for this panic are not ascertainable, for [Alfred] Rothschild, whom I have just seen, has had no news of any refusal by the Transvaal Government.
COUNT HATZFELDT, IN LONDON, TO THE GERMAN FOREIGN OFFICE, September 20th, 1899
In confidential conversation with Baron von Eckardstein to-day, Mr. Chamberlain described war as unavoidable now that the Transvaal had made any peaceful compromise impossible. England must of course now insist upon stronger conditions and demand guarantees from the Boers; these he did not define. He himself did not believe that the fresh British demands, which would be settled at the next Cabinet Council, would be accepted by the Transvaal. Speaking of the Orange Free State, Mr. Chamberlain showed some anxiety lest it might at the last moment desert the Transvaal and remain neutral. He added in explanation that if this happened the Orange Free State would continue as an independent wedge in the middle of British South Africa. Moreover it was important strategically to send British troops through the Free State, and this could not be done if it remained neutral. Finally Mr. Chamberlain said that there was no necessity to summon Parliament at present, as the Government's reserve fund gave it sufficient means for starting the war. He mentioned that he had met with difficulties here on all sides in his Transvaal policy, and he let me see that this had been particularly the case with Lord Salisbury.
COUNT VON BULOW, AT SEMMERING, TO THE GERMAN FOREIGN OFFICE, September 20th, 1899
The language of our Press should be calm and cool about the Transvaal crisis and should confine itself to facts. Whilst the admittedly semi-official journals must carefully avoid offending large sections in Germany by conspicuous partisanship for England or spiteful attacks upon the Boers, it is also desirable that the German Press should not fall into the errors committed by it during the Spanish-American war, in championing the weaker side from the start in an unnecessarily blatant tone. It must be explained throughout the country that since France, Russia, Italy and Austria are not thinking of becoming enemies with England on account of South African questions, Germany cannot step forward and commit herself there all alone.
COUNT HATZFELDT, IN LONDON, TO THE GERMAN FOREIGN OFFICE, September 30th, 1899
To-day's Standard announces from Paris that certain semiofficial papers have published, treating it as inspired, a telegram from London, to the effect that the British Government is anxious concerning our attitude in the Transvaal question. It is worth nothing that in confidential conversation with Baron von Eckardstein 1 Mr. Chamberlain said that the British Government knew perfectly well that our attitude towards England would be correct throughout. But the general public did not know this; in fact it was universally assumed that our feeling and attitude was unfriendly. Mr. Chamberlain also questioned whether it might not be possible and opportune to enlighten and reassure public opinion here by a public demonstration of our sympathy with England in this crisis.
At the next opportunity I intend to inform Mr. Chamberlain through Baron von Eckardstein that it is the British Government's business to enlighten the public through the Press as to the real facts of the case, which it knows quite well. Also I felt that I had no right to recommend the Imperial Government to make a public demonstration of sympathy, whilst the conclusion of the agreement on the Samoan question, which alone stood in the way of intimate relationship between us, still met with such great obstacles here.
[Count Hatzfeldt was instructed to inform Mr. Chamberlain that the foregoing correctly represented the intentions of the German Government.]
SIR FRANK LASCELLES, IN BERLIN, TO DERENTHALL, GERMAN FOREIGN OFFICE, October 3rd, 1899
I have the honour to inform Your Excellency that I have received telegraphic instructions from the Marquess of Salisbury to inquire whether the Imperial Government would allow the Imperial Representative at Pretoria to take charge of British interests in the event of its being found necessary to withdraw the British Agent in consequence of a hostile movement directed against British territory by the Boers.
I have the honour to request Your Excellency to be so good as to inform me at your earliest convenience as to what answer I may return to Her Majesty's Government.
From telegrams despatched by Count Hatzfeldt on October 7th, 1899, it appears that he made efforts to bring influence to bear [regarding the Samoan settlement] on Lord Salisbury through Alfred Rothschild, Lord Lansdowne, Mr. Goschen, and others.
COUNT VON BULOW, IN BERLIN, TO COUNT HATZFELDT, October 8th, 1899
...On your side you have done all, if not directly, then by other means, to attain the object; so that I am not giving up hope that we shall finally reach a satisfactory settlement, and I consider your method of influencing Lord Salisbury through the medium of influential Englishmen to be the one best suited to the Premier's character.
At present, however, the situation is so unfriendly in England that His Majesty's Government has been forced to renounce the idea of representing British interests in the Transvaal for the reasons already known to you.
Herr von Derenthall explained very confidentially to the British Ambassador, who came for the purpose of enquiring, that Germany's representative in the Transvaal was merely a Consul, who had only recently been transferred, and in whom we did not expect enough authority and local knowledge to be able to cope at once with all the difficult and complicated duties involved in representing British interests. The Ambassador accepted the statement with calm seriousness and offered no comment, but Herr von Derenthall's impression was that the Ambassador understood what was meant.
Having, as in duty bound, fulfilled the obligations of politeness by our formal declaration, we should now not fail to place the real motive for our refusal in its right light. I shall speak to the British Ambassador in this sense to-morrow and can confidentially leave it to your experience to decide where and how you make your explanation in London. As things are I think that neither you nor I shall find much trouble in making our listeners understand the glaring disproportion between Lord Salisbury's wide claim on our friendly support--for protection of British interests in the Transvaal would naturally have meant no mere formality--and his freely expressed unfriendly treatment of all questions which interest Germany. Even a strong Government, like the German one, must avoid challenging the legitimate criticism of public opinion at home, which would at once be aroused, if it repaid slights, such as those constantly suffered by it in the course of the Samoan question, with acts of friendship. Germany would make her position worse not only with England, but with the rest of the Powers who are looking on.
These discussions will perhaps give you an indication of the real reason for the Premier's lack of cordiality. The disapproval of the political personages mentioned in your telegrams shows me that his brusqueness is not to be explained by any material British interests; so that there only remains the supposition that the 'personal question' mentioned by Mr. Chamberlain, i.e., his entirely causeless irritation against the Emperor, or perhaps some suspicion whose source is unknown to us, plays a part in it. The irritation, for which just now there is no cause whatever, should be capable of being overcome by strong British arguments. As for the suspicion--that also must be without valid reasons, for throughout the whole course of the Transvaal crisis the German Government has observed a perfectly loyal and unfailingly correct attitude, which disappointed the Transvaal and was criticised by a large section of the German people and some of the other Powers; the British reproaches on this count must therefore at most refer to events having no political significance. Owing to the importance of the whole affair I shall communicate with you more in detail, but now I say that they may find excuses, but not reasons, for their suspicion.
[The task of protecting British interests was, in the end, undertaken by the United States.]
COUNT VON BULOW, IN BERLIN, TO COUNT HATZFELDT, October 8th, 1899
Telegram. Very secret.
The British Government's attitude of refusal in the Samoa affair may perhaps be explained by the supposition that Lord Salisbury and perhaps Mr. Chamberlain also have conceived an unfounded suspicion against our loyal attitude in the Transvaal question.
It is quite unknown here what can be brought with any justification against our absolutely loyal and correct attitude in the Transvaal affair. In any case I will inform you confidentially that certain German business men in South-West Africa, led by Herr von Hansemann, have for some months been trying to obtain a concession to build a railway through the Transvaal to connect with a line through Bechuanaland and the mining district of German South-West Africa and so on to the Atlantic coast, and a proposal was made lately to the Transvaal Government. The news of this purely private enterprise may have come lately in some way to the knowledge of the British Government, in such a form as to arouse suspicion against us.
If, after careful enquiry, you come to the conclusion that the fact that German capitalists are pushing this Transvaal railway concession with the Transvaal Government has really aroused Lord Salisbury's suspicions and contributed to the British Dvernment's attitude of refusal in the Samoa affair, you will explain the facts of the case so as to remove all further misunderstanding and say that the Imperial Government sets no store on obtaining such a railway concession in itself, but that it is purely a question of private German enterprise as is often observable elsewhere, especially in England. We shall be satisfied if we are assured that Mr. Rhodes' railway across South Africa is certainly to be carried through German territory and on to the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, as was settled in the latest agreement with Mr. Davis, Mr. Rhodes' representative. Please say also that we should unfailingly proceed with the ratification of the East African Telegraph agreement with Mr. Cecil Rhodes, as soon as the consent of the Chartered Company and of the British Government, which are required for the agreement, is in our hands. Mr. Davis is now in London for the purpose of obtaining this consent.
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