Vereeniging, Treaty of

Vereeniging, Treaty of
   The treaty bringing the Boer War to an end in May 1902, following a number of abortive efforts to find a compromise between the Afrikaner Republics and the British government. Many Boer commandos wished to continue fighting to preserve their independence but, when they convened at Vereeniging on May 15, the 60 Boer representatives reluctantly agreed to accept the British terms. The Afrikaner governments met Lords Kitchener and Milner at Pretoria on May 31 and signed the treaty concluding the war.
   The Afrikaner Republics of the Orange Free State and Transvaal lost their independence, but their white citizens had full rights in South Africa and came to dominate its politics. The guerrillas were to receive an amnesty unless they had committed offenses “contrary to the usages of war.” The Boer farmers were compensated for their losses and given livestock for their burned-out farms. Originally, the British said they would provide the Afrikaners with £3 million for reconstruction by giving, at least, £25 to every Boer who had suffered. In practice, the distribution was often unfair because it was hurried so that the 200,000 Boer farmers could be sent homewards to plant harvests as quickly as possible. On the other hand, the daughter of the Boer leader, General Smuts, estimated that, in the end, compensation amounted to £9.5 million.
   This was, no doubt, poor recompense for the destruction and for the sufferings of the Boer families who had been removed from their farms and concentrated in camps to prevent them from helping the commandos. But the compensation was unique in this period; it had, for example, been the vanquished Chinese who had to compensate the victorious Japanese in 1895. Britain’s relative generosity stemmed from the desire of the Conservatives to build up the new country and from the guilt felt by many about the destruction of the small Boer Republics.
   What the treaty did not do was protect the rights of the Africans. Indeed Article 8 promised that “the question of granting the Franchise to Natives will not be decided until after the introduction of self-government.” The war had increased the bitterness between the Africans and the Afrikaners, not least because the Boers complained of African attacks, while the Africans protested Boer brutality. To that extent it was a flawed treaty, but its generosity to the defeated was rightly held up 17 years later by one of the Boer leaders, General Botha as an example to be followed at the negotiations that followed World War I.
   See also <>; <>; <>.
    Beak, G. B. Aftermath of War. London: Edward Arnold, 1906;
    Kestell, J. D. Through Shot and Flame. London: Methuen 1903;
    Meintjes, Johannes. General Louis Botha: A Biography. London: Cassell, 1970; Nasson, Bill. The South African War, 1899-1902. London: Arnold, 1999;
    de Wet, Christiaan Rudolf. Three Years War. London: Constable, 1902.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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