Letter of General Louis Botha

Scope and Content

Letter, with typescript partial translation, from Botha to 'Louis', written in Londonduring a tour of European capitals by Boer generals following the signingof the Treaty of Vereeniging, 1902. The letter discusses negotiations with Chamberlain about possiblechanges to the Treaty, etc..

Administrative / Biographical History

General Louis Botha (1862-1919) was born in Natal and brought up on a farmnear Vrede in Orange Free State from 1869. He was a volunteer in the successfulcampaign for the restoration of Dinizulu, son of the Zulu chief Cetewayo, in1884. He served afterwards as commissioner to delimit farms on Zulu territory assignedto volunteers, then as field-cornet and native commissionerat Vryheid, obtaining Waterval, a farm in Transvaal, during the same period. Hemobilised the burgher force against the Jameson Raid, 1895, was a member inthe first Transvaal volksraad (parliament) from 1897, and a supporter ofP.J. Joubert's liberal stance on uitlander franchise.

At the outbreak of theSouth African War, 1899-1902, he mustered the commando at Vryheid, fought atthe Battle of Dundee, and frustrated an early attempt by the British to relieveLadysmith, thus avoiding a direct attack on the Afrikaner force led by Joubert. In 1900 he saw action at Tabanyama and Spion Kop, forced theBritish to retire at Vaalkrantz, and was promoted commandant-general onJoubert's death. After his promotion, he reorganised the commandos, made alast defence of Johannesburg and Pretoria at Doornkop, and was narrowly defeated atDiamond Hill. From June 1900 onwards, he carried out a guerilla campaign,but was forced to surrender at Vereeniging, May 1902, after which the Transvaalbecame part of the British territory of South Africa.

After visiting Englandin 1902, he lived mainly at Pretoria, helping found the nationalistorganisation Het Volk in 1905. In 1907 he formeda ministry in the Transvaal under the British crown, headed a Transvaal delegationat the Union Convention, 1908-1909, and formed a strong political bond withJan Christian Smuts. He was the first Prime Minister of the Union of SouthAfrica, 1910-1919, dealing satisfactorily with the questions of Indianimmigration and unrest on the Rand. He supported the British during World WarOne, suppressing a revolt by Dutch South Africans against intervention in thewar, 1914-1915 and commanding a successful campaign against German South-WestAfrica, obtaining the colony's capitulation in 1915. He attended the VersaillesPeace Conference with Smuts as South African delegate, 1919.

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Collection level description created by Paul Davidson, Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Rhodes House.

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