previous chapter
1— The Beginnings of Afrikaner Ethnic Consciousness, 1850–1915
next chapter

The Beginnings of Afrikaner Ethnic Consciousness, 1850–1915

Hermann Giliomee


Recent studies by Welsh, Giliomee, and O'Meara have investigated the political economy of Afrikaner ethnic nationalism and political mobilization in its 'secondary' phase of growth, starting in the 1930s and leading to the establishment of apartheid after the victory of the Nationalist Party in the election of 1948.[2] Yet far less is known of the economic and social bases of the political mobilization of Afrikaner ethnicity during the second half of the nineteenth century. Analyses of Afrikaner ethnic consciousness in this earlier period have generally been concerned with identifying its 'awakening' or its 'origin'. Particularly influential has been F.A. van Jaarsveld's study, The Awakening of Afrikaner Nationalism, 1868–1881, which concludes that it was British imperialist interventions, particularly the annexation of the Transvaal in 1877 and the subsequent revolt of 1880–1881, which triggered a nationalist response amongst Afrikaners all over South Africa.[3] Van Jaarsveld also argues that without this awakening, the Afrikaners in the Cape Colony would have been absorbed in the English stream and Dutch/Afrikaans would have disappeared as a local language.

This study will avoid both the 'awakening' and the 'origin' approaches in explaining the growth of Afrikaner nationalism up to 1915. As Ernest Gellner points out, the use of a concept such as 'awakening' comes close to accepting 'the nationalist ideologue's most misguided claim, namely that the "nations" are there, in the very nature of things, only waiting to be "awakened" (a favourite nationalist expression and image) from their regrettable slumber by the nationalist "awakener"'.[4] There is also a problem with the concept of 'origin'. In a different context, Marc Bloch remarked that in popular usage an origin tends to be regarded as a complete explanation.[5] In fact, there can never be a complete explanation as to why Afrikaner ethnic consciousness originated. At best, we can only begin to give a broad explanation of its slow and tortuous beginnings.

Both Van Jaarsveld and Rodney Davenport have stressed the cultural and political aspects of early manifestations of Afrikaner ethnic consciousness.[6] This essay will attempt to further the analysis, situating the development of nineteenth century Afrikaner ethnic consciousness within a socio-economic context as well as within a political and cultural framework. It should be emphasized, however, that this discussion of the development of Afrikaner ethnic consciousness does not assume that it was the organic antecedent of the 'secondary' phase of


full-blown Afrikaner ethnic consciousness that was formed in the twentieth century.

Ambiguous Identities Before 1850

The group that ultimately became known as the 'Afrikaners' was drawn from disparate elements, particularly people from Dutch, German and French background in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Genealogists also calculate a six to seven per cent contribution from 'non-Europeans'. By 1870 it was possible to identify a distinct group of people all of whom spoke Dutch, or a variant of it, had a common religion and maintained a fair degree of racial endogamy. Yet the development of a distinct Afrikaner ethnic consciousness which could be mobilized readily for political purposes was slow. In fact, the gradual and often tentative growth of Afrikaner cultural and political ethnic awareness was rooted firmly in historical changes that occurred after 1870. To understand the absence of an ethnic consciousness before 1870, one must explore the nature of the economy, the form of politics, and the kind of class and political cleavages in society.

Before 1850 membership in an Afrikaner ethnic community was seldom invoked as a political claim. In their dispute with the company government, the supporters of the Patriot Movement of the Western Cape, which arose between 1778 and 1784, made their claims in terms of their role as indispensable producers of trade goods and of their privileges as burghers. In their rebellion of 1795–96, the Graaff-Reinet burghers on the frontier depicted themselves as burghers and producers legally occupying loan farms and entitled to protection by the Company. The Voortrekkers did not see the Great Trek of 1835–38 as a positive expression of an Afrikaner political ethnicity but rather conceived of themselves as 'emigrants' and 'expatriates'.[7] Furthermore, there are no convincing historical grounds for the later, widely-held belief that they tended to consider themselves as a uniquely Chosen People who had a Covenant with God.[8]

Among the Dutch-Afrikaner[9] colonists who did not trek we also find little evidence of an ethnic consciousness being articulated or of ethnic strategies being pursued. During the 1830s a small group of Cape Town professionals tried to stimulate a sense of cultural identity based upon recognition of a shared language and history. They supported a periodical, Het Nederduitsch-Zuid-Afrikaansch Tijdschrift, a college for advanced education, the Zuid-Afrikaansche Athenaeum, and a society for the extension of arts and letters. These efforts did not succeed. The periodical folded in 1843, the society soon ceased to function, and the college became anglicized. The group of professionals was too small and the neighbouring farming population too apathetic to secure success.[10]

Even the name of the group remained highly ambiguous until the twentieth century. The term 'Afrikaner' was employed in different ways by various groups. In the early eighteenth century it was used for slaves or ex-slaves of African descent. From the late eighteenth century onwards the literature also records whites using the term. But this usage had a colonial (or regional) rather than an ethnic connotation. The Zuid-Afrikaan, the most widely read Dutch publication in 1830, defined Afrikaners as those 'whether English or Dutch who inhabited the land and were bound by duty and interest to further the well-being of their country'.[11] In subsequent decades the Zuid-Afrikaan proposed this identity as one which encompassed both Dutch and English-speakers and which would in the course of time replace the discrete Dutch and English identities of the settlers. This term and definition was found acceptable by non-jingoist English-speakers


who propagandized for the amalgamation of all groups of colonists in order to press colonial political and economic claims upon Britain. Depending on the political strategy, politicians used it in both an exclusive and inclusive sense. Some British imperialists appropriated it, but others spurned it because, in the words of the Cape Times, 'The name was originally applied to the half-bred offspring of slaves, and even in a word the mark of slavery is detestable.'[12] Indeed an official list of Cape Town prostitutes, taken in 1868, was headed by 'Africanders', meaning people of mixed descent.[13]

Apart from the ambiguous term 'Afrikaner' or 'Afrikander', there also existed the notion of a 'Boer' people. Dutch-Afrikaners generally acknowledged that they were of Boer descent, but it was usually the pastoral farmers in the interior who applied the term to themselves. Finally, there was the term 'Cape Dutch', but this was an English description rather than a self-concept. English-speakers tended to distinguish between the better educated and more 'civilized' Cape Dutch of the Western Cape or interior towns and the Boer people whom they considered ignorant, illiterate and almost beyond the pale.[14]

Although the Dutch-Afrikaners did possess by 1850 certain common cultural traits in the form of generally endogamous marriage patterns, membership of the Dutch Reformed or Lutheran churches, and a common language (or variants of it), it was difficult to find any self-conscious sense of ethnic unity among them. Indeed, from the 1850s the already existing cleavages within the group began to intensify which would make the putting together of an ethnic coalition for political purposes an extremely difficult task.

During the second half of the nineteenth century two interlinked forces impeded the development of such ethnic consciousness. First, there was the accelerated integration of the entire South African region into Western, and particularly British, capitalism. Second, the informal empire operated by Britain in the region constrained development of Afrikaner ethnic consciousness.[15] In South Africa, unlike Australia or Canada, Britain could not count on the weight of racial kinship to keep the colonists closely tied to the metropole. When the Cape Colony received Representative Government in 1853 fewer than a quarter of the white inhabitants were British. In the Transvaal and Orange Free State, which became independent republics in 1852 and 1854 respectively, there was only a small scattering of British merchants, professionals and prospectors. Consequently Britain used the stratagems of informal empire and economic control to prevent these states from moving out of the imperial orbit. From the Voortrekkers a promise was exacted to support free trade and accept British control over the coastal ports upon which they depended for essential supplies. Britain could thus relax formal political control over the two Voortrekker states secure in the anticipation that their economic dependence would achieve the same purpose.

British merchant capitalism soon assumed a dominant position in all the South African states. From the merchant houses based in the Cape Colony and, to a lesser extent, Natal, there poured forth a constant supply of indispensable articles such as wagons, firearms, gunpowder and lead. The latter were necessary for defence and also for hunting, an important activity in the frontier economy. The low population densities there, with only 15,000 to 20,000 whites in each republic, lack of capital, and weak transportation links ensured that hardly any industries developed before 1875, while the transition from subsistence to commercial farming was occurring at an extremely slow pace. The Free State was therefore soon hopelessly in debt to foreign creditors.

The British cultural imperialism that went hand in hand with informal empire


further hampered development of an explicit ethnic consciousness. The towns of the Free State and the Transvaal, where one would expect ethnic movements to start, were dominated by English or Jewish merchants who were hostile or indifferent to local nationalisms and who promoted English culture. In the Transvaal they established private schools which drew as many pupils as the state schools. Eager to master the language of commerce, the Dutch-Afrikaner children also preferred to attend the English section of the parallel-medium schools which the state established. Because of the greater availability of English-speaking teachers, four of the eight state-supported schools in the Transvaal used only English by 1876.[16] In the Free State the realities of merchant capitalism and cultural imperialism together similarly frustrated the development of an autonomous Dutch-Afrikaner cultural and political life. While English was accepted as the language of commerce and intellectual discourse in the town, it also penetrated the rural areas. The wealthiest farmers usually founded rural schools, and more often than not they chose English as the medium of instruction. Finally, virtually all the teachers and civil servants came from either the Netherlands or the Cape Colony. 'We are dependent on foreigners and are still ruled by foreigners', a member of the Volksraad remarked in 1873.[17]

Other stumbling blocks to a developed ethnic consciousness were internal class conflict in Dutch-Afrikaner society, decentralized power structures, and regional rivalries. Power in both the Free State and the Transvaal was effectively in the hands of the large landholders, sometimes called patriarchs, who established patron-client relationships with both their family dependants and bywoners, or landless Afrikaners. The Boer-bywoner relationship, and the spirit of paternalism which infused it, were full of contradictory tendencies. In a wider sense the poorest white could participate in the political process and claim equality with the rich, but on the farms the bywoners soon became subservient to the patriarchs. Moreover, the local field-cornets, who allocated land to newcomers, distributed African labour among the individual farmers and settled labour disputes, while they were chosen by all the burghers in a particular division, were invariably drawn from the ranks of, and beholden to, the larger landowners. Although there were exceptions, field-cornets generally favoured the larger farmers in performing their duties and this worked against a feeling of ethnic solidarity.[18]

Furthermore, there is evidence that commando service, which every burgher was expected to perform in the Transvaal and the Free State, tended to come down unevenly on the poor. This was because of the practice which permitted a man who had been called up for service to send someone in his place. Many rich farmers abstained from the commandos, sending bywoners or other poor whites as their substitutes. A reader's letter in a Free State paper distinguished between the meer gegoede ('well-off') and the minder gegoede ('less well-off') in the commandos, and this reader was backed up by another who stated flatly that the war against the Sotho between 1866 and 1868 was fought mainly by the poor burghers and their children.[19] In the Transvaal the situation was much the same. By the late nineteenth century, this division gave rise to serious class conflict. Of the roughly 5000 'Joiners'—men who supported the British in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1902—the vast majority were bywoners, some of whom were bitterly discontented because in the 1880s and 1890s they had to go on commando without pay to defend the property of landholders at a time when their own families were destitute. They clearly hoped that the British would offer them a better deal as a reward for their collaboration.[20]

Instead of the growth of a unifying ethnic consciousness, extreme individualism, self-aggrandizement, and even anarchy prevailed in the early years


of the Transvaal and Free State. The field-cornets often displayed great contempt for Pretoria and its representative in the district, the landdrost (magistrate). Landdrost A.F. du Toit once remarked that the field-cornets acted as if they were 'Emperors of the state'.[21] They identified primarily with their division, then with their region, and only in a nominal sense with the state or the ethnic group. Regionalism was a powerful force in the years 1850–1880.[22] During the late 1850s and early 1860s three regional factions—based on Lydenburg, Zoutpansberg and Potchefstroom—tried to establish their own separate sovereignties and on occasion clashed in military skirmishes.

By the end of the 1860s regional strife had subsided, but the state remained weak and religious schisms compounded the political divisions.[23] The Dutch Reformed (Hervormde ) Church (NHK), established in 1853, was the state church with a privileged position. Disputes over the singing of hymns led to the establishment in 1859 of the fundamentalist Reformed (Gereformeerde ) Church (colloquially known as the Dopper Church). By the 1870s the Doppers, among them Paul Kruger, had become known as a group imbued with an acute ethnic consciousness, strongly anti-British, and keen to develop a distinct political, economic and social life along their own lines.[24] Third, there was the Dutch Reformed (Nederduits Gereformeerde ) Church (DRC) which was initially small but had grown to ten congregations by 1870. It was doctrinally more orthodox in its doctrine than the Hervormdes, but it was politically in favour of close ties with the Cape Colony and some of its ministers promoted English cultural influence by establishing English-language seminaries.[25] The armed civil strife of the late 1850s and early 1860s had a definite religious dimension in that the feuding factions were largely divided along religious lines and exploited religious differences for political gain.[26]

In the Orange Free State the prospects for state building and fostering a community consciousness were not appreciably better than in the Transvaal. The state was even more dependent on British merchant capital. The Free State's leaders in its first decades often despaired of saving the state and its people. In 1858, for example, President Boshof said that it was doubtful that it could sustain itself because 'patriotic feelings' were still not general or strong enough, and he was instructed by the Volksraad to negotiate with the Cape Colony to form a federation.[27] Militarily weak, it faced a formidable enemy on its eastern flank, where the Sotho resisted white expansion. The Free State's war against Moshoeshoe plunged it still deeper into crisis, and its very survival was thrown into doubt.

Ultimately, however, this war was crucial in forging a stronger sense of national identity. War, as Anthony Smith remarks, stimulates a sense of community and territory and also helps to concentrate the facilities of physical coercion at the centre by undermining the status and power of regional leaders.[28] Moreover, war propaganda strengthens a sense of national identity. Yet as the Free State did not have an intellectual elite of its own, foreigners acted as the articulators of nationalist feelings.[29] As editor of one of the first journals, De Tijd, a Dutch immigrant, H.A.L. Hamelberg, set himself the task of 'cultivating a true citizenship atmosphere' by composing a folk song which soon became the republic's national anthem, sung by the burghers on commando. After the war the Volksraad thanked him for his efforts 'to cultivate a spirit of nationalism in our midst'.[30]

Although British rule in the Cape Colony had eliminated earlier frontier anarchy, the patriarchs in general and the field-cornets specifically still wielded considerable local power in large parts of the Colony as well as in the republics.


The introduction in 1853 of Representative Government in the Cape saw the replacement of the old ruling coalition which was comprised of top officials, a few large estate owners, and the great merchants. In its place came a commercial middle class—the progressive sheep and cattle ranchers, the village storekeepers and artisans, the accountants, attorneys, newspaper editors and professional men who ministered to local business.[31] Indeed, English-speakers almost completely dominated the world of commerce. The commercial life of South Africa rested on a structure of mercantile credit extending from London to its remote rural towns. Closely associated with partners and correspondents in Great Britain and Europe, the merchant houses of the Cape extended credit on a large scale to wool producers who were their customers in the Eastern Cape, the Transvaal and Orange Free State. Based on this wool trade, Port Elizabeth, with some 30 merchant houses, was the centre of South Africa's commercial world, having exports worth twice as much as those of Cape Town in 1870.

Yet, apart from some localized tensions between British and Dutch-Afrikaners centring on Grahamstown and Graaff-Reinet, there was little ethnic rivalry in the Cape Colony. The Dutch-Afrikaners did not covet the British commercial predominance while the English-speakers, except in the Eastern Cape, left farming to the Dutch-Afrikaners. The so-called Boers on their isolated farms impassively resented British rule and cultural imperialism, but the Cape Dutch in the interior's towns, acting as political and economic brokers, performed an important cushioning function. Neither the Boers nor the Cape Dutch resisted the dominant English role in politics. Although Dutch-Afrikaners accounted for roughly 70 per cent of the Cape's white population, the proportion of Dutch-Afrikaner representatives in parliament ranged from only 32 to 36 per cent between 1850 and 1870. On the constituency level great apathy reigned. In 1869 a canvasser found that nine-tenths of the young farmers under the age of 26 in his area had not troubled to register as voters. Jan Hofmeyr, who founded the first political interest group, remarked about this period that 'the Dutch were very apathetic as to their political privileges. Even if they registered and voted, they simply did so for their English shopkeeper or agent, or for someone recommended by them.'[32]

Parliamentary politics was largely played out within patron-client relationships manipulated by the merchants, the large landholders, and the influential Cape Dutch. They faced little opposition. Many of the constituencies were not even contested, with nearly half going unopposed, for example, in the 1869 election. Where there was a real contest, it was usually a small number of men with their family connections, colleagues and friends who mobilized a majority. There was no secret ballot and men of influence expected their tenants, clients, debtors, and other dependants to vote for them and had means for ensuring that they did so. With their prominent position as financial middlemen in the towns, the Cape Dutch were strategically placed to control the vote of the wealthy Boers in rural constituencies and deliver seats to merchants who were, as a group, over-represented in Parliament. The same patron-client relationship operated with respect to careers in the civil service, entry to which was regulated in most cases by the exertions of parents or patrons rather than by any system of merit and qualifications.[33]

The reason for this lack of political interest of the Dutch-Afrikaner farmers is simple: the colony's parliament hardly touched their daily lives. It had a limited ability to tax, and its greatest topic of discussion was the budget deficit and the need for retrenchment. There was indeed little room for ethnic politics in the colonial state during the 1850s, 1860s and early 1870s. The wealthier class of


Dutch-Afrikaner farmers in the Western Cape had no serious quarrel with the British connection or with the English-speaking political domination of the Cape. They unquestioningly accepted the need for British military protection of the colony. They hoped against hope that Britain would again grant preferential tariffs on Cape exports, eagerly enlisting English allies in their campaign for protective tariffs against imported wine and other products. Their chief mouthpiece, the Zuid-Afrikaan, wrote in 1857 that the colony was witnessing 'the gradual amalgamation of the Dutch and the English nationality which will, however, take many years'. In the meantime the colonists should promote the many interests they had in common, and 'the less we speak of nationality the better'.[34]

Early Stimulants of Afrikaner Ethnic Consciousness

Yet it became increasingly difficult to maintain such a phlegmatic posture. From the 1850s onwards, the Dutch-Afrikaners in the Cape faced a twin assault on their cultural and spiritual values in the forms of the so-called 'liberal tendency' and intensified British cultural imperialism. Springing from the eighteenth century Enlightenment in Europe, but only gathering force in the Cape from the 1850s, the liberal tendency stressed personal autonomy, personal self-sufficiency and personal sovereignty. Considering itself the antithesis of absolutism, it championed democracy and the separation of State and Church. It challenged the authority of the Scriptures, the Confessions, and the ruling ecclesiastical bodies. From the 1860s some young ministers in the DRC in the Cape started to preach a liberal theology which questioned some of the fundamental tenets of the Confessions. Two were deposed in 1864 on account of heterodox teaching but were restored by secular courts. In 1865 the liberal tendency scored a major breakthrough when instruction in the Christian religion was barred from the state schools which now became fully secularized. In 1875 a final separation between Church and State was effected with the triumph of the principle of voluntarism towards religion. Disestablishment ended the state's financial support for the DRC which by the mid-nineteenth century received some £7000 annually for paying salaries. The result was that each parish had to assume sole responsibility for providing for its minister's remuneration.[35]

Even more ominous was the growing challenge of British cultural imperialism. To protect its commercial and strategic interests in the Cape Colony, it seemed vital for Britain to reshape the white colonists in its own image. The Dutch-Afrikaners were, to use Robinson's terms, 'the ideal prefabricated collaborators' in helping to secure British power and influence.[36] Although a very large number of Dutch-Afrikaners were still in the subsistence sector and had little or no knowledge of English, the government in 1865 abolished Dutch as a medium of instruction in government schools and imposed English as the sole medium. This decision flowed from a recommendation by a commission of seven members, three of whom had Dutch names. They belonged to the relatively small number of 'Anglo-Afrikaners' in and around Cape Town who wanted English to become the sole official language and the colony to assume an English identity. By the 1860s it appeared as if their wish was gradually coming true—certainly as far as Cape Town and its immediate environs were concerned. Several observers reported that Dutch-Afrikaner youth in this area were becoming estranged from their language and customs. With a good command of English a prerequisite for a career in the civil service, law and commerce, there were powerful forces at work in favour of further anglicization. Even the most prestigious DRC congregation,


the 'Mother Church' in Cape Town, yielded to the demand for English services to be held in the Groote Kerk on some evenings. The Mother Church was preceded or followed in its example by several rural congregations. In effect, this legitimized the Anglo-Afrikaners' position.[37]

No one watched these developments with more concern than the Reverend G.W.A. van der Lingen of Paarl. Van der Lingen realized that what was happening at the Cape was a vital ideological battle between, on the one hand, the state and the liberal tendency, both of which emphasized rationalism and secularism, and, on the other, the authority of religion and the clergy. If they lost the battle, the church and its ministers would steadily find themselves losing control over their members and be confronted with dwindling support and status. Anthony Smith has acutely observed that in situations such as these neo-traditionalists not only strongly defend traditional values and dogma but also try to use political means to revive religious heritage, faith and authority. What they do, in short, is to turn their religious congregations into ethnic communities, as happened with the Jews.[38]

After his studies in the Netherlands, Van der Lingen became the leading force among those who rejected the call for freedom, civilization, enlightenment and progress. He was also in the forefront of the fight against liberal theology in the DRC. Deeply concerned by the rapid advance of English culture and the alien influences of the state schools, Van der Lingen established schools under the auspices of the church council which gave a prominent place to the teaching of Dutch and religious instruction. But he seemed to be waging a losing struggle and his influence did not extend much beyond Paarl and Stellenbosch where he served as chairman of the Theological Seminary council. Even in the seminary there was a distinct trend towards anglicization.[39]

By 1870 the traditional Dutch-Afrikaner world of subsistence farming and the sway of patriarchal local or regional leaders were slowly coming to an end. With the advent of commercial farming, the increased dependence on credit, and the development of an infrastructure of roads and markets a new kind of politics appeared. It assumed different forms in the two republics in the north on the one hand and in the Cape Colony on the other. In the Orange Free State and the Transvaal mobilization around the state began to develop which, over time, became the basis of local nationalisms. In the Cape Colony the Dutch-Afrikaners began to articulate ethnic sentiments and started to explore political strategies based on ethnic mobilization. By this I mean that an emotional attachment to a Dutch-Afrikaner group as a cultural group with shared beliefs about descent and history began to be channelled into a movement that made political claims on behalf of this group. Initially it was an amorphous type of ethnic consciousness, quite different from the radical twentieth century Afrikaner ethnic movement of the 1930s and 1940s which would insist on political supremacy and would define the group exclusively in terms of an elaborate ethnic ideology.

The context in which such a mobilization around the state and consequent local nationalism occurred in the Orange Free State was supplied, first, by the response to the British annexation of Basutoland (1868) and me Diamond Fields (1871), to which the young republic had expressed strong claims, and, second, by accelerated economic development which made much increased resources available to the state. The annexation of the Diamond Fields made the burghers feel that they had been wronged as an ethnic group by Britain and by English-speakers, who were seen as 'the other'. But as important was the growing prosperity brought by the discovery of diamonds and the rise of a market in Kimberley, a town which already by 1871 had a population of more than 40,000


whites and 20,000 Africans. This prosperity, which spilled over to the Free State, enabled the struggling republic to develop its institutions and infrastructure. It was able to set aside funds for commissioning a Dutchman, H.J. Hofstede, to write a history of the Free State. This book aimed to stir and 'uplift national feelings', by telling of the 'trials and tribulations' of the forefathers and the numerous grievances of the Afrikaners.[40] This was not so much 'the product of an awakening of a national feeling' as a deliberate attempt by the government to cultivate such a feeling for the sake of state building.[41] Yet, these efforts encountered considerable stumbling blocks. In the Volksraad merchants and professionals closely tied to British merchant capital were well represented. While Brand was President (1864–1888), they could promote a bi-cultural consciousness in which English was predominant as the language of commerce and intellectual discourse.

Nevertheless, with many burghers in a state of indebtedness, both local and ethnic sentiment could feed from the early days of the republic on a financial anti-imperialism which expressed itself in strong resentment against their main creditor, the Standard Bank. The bank sent large dividends abroad and was accused of charging excessive interest rates. Against it stood the local bank, the Bloemfontein Bank, which had several members of the Volksraad as shareholders. They had no qualms about spreading the word that the avaricious foreign bank would drive the Free State burghers over the Vaal River or into the sea. In 1865 the Volksraad expelled the Standard Bank from the Republic and in 1882 it rejected the Bank's petition to be readmitted. In a report to London the General Manager complained that 'while the President . . . is friendly, we cannot expect that he will exert himself in our favour and the [Volksraad] itself is at present extremely anti-English'.[42]

In the Transvaal the development of a local nationalism was less advanced than in the Free State. Subsistence farming linked only tenuously to the market continued to reinforce established networks of patron-client relationships, and extreme individualism was still scarcely diluted by the integrative effects of trade. The influence of regional leaders was too strong and the interests of the regions too diffuse for any national cohesion to develop. The Reverend F. Lion Cachet, head of one of the three Reformed Churches in the Transvaal, aptly remarked in 1872 that the Transvaal burghers were so divided 'that they appeared to be four or five nations instead of one nation'.[43]

Ironically, it was under T.F. Burgers, president from 1872 to 1877, that the greatest factionalism and disintegration occurred. More than any Dutch-Afrikaner leader of the time he advocated the unity of all 'Afrikaners whether by birth or adoption' across the political boundaries of South Africa, the teaching of a national history to counteract English cultural hegemony, and the development of a railway line to Delagoa Bay to lessen their dependence upon the Cape Colony.[44] Yet while Burgers propagandized on behalf of these ideas, his state was heavily indebted to foreign banks, particularly the Cape Commercial Bank, which granted low interest rates to obtain a political grip on the state. The parochial Transvaal burghers had little enthusiasm for allowing Cape Dutch-Afrikaners open competition for jobs in the Transvaal and refused to pay increased taxes for constructing a railway and waging a war against Africans. By the time the British agent, Theophilus Shepstone, arrived in the Transvaal in 1877 to annex the state, it was utterly bankrupt and politically paralysed by the divisions between the Kruger and the Burgers factions.[45]

In the Cape Colony political ethnic self-consciousness also began to develop. This occurred within the context of, first, the rapid economic expansion consequent upon the opening of the Diamond Fields in 1869; second, the


introduction in 1872 of Responsible Government which created a new arena for political contests; and, third, the growing concern, articulated by intellectuals and professionals, about a major economic and cultural crisis descending upon a large section of the Dutch-Afrikaners.

Even before accelerated economic development started around 1870, there had been a considerable improvement in communications. Cape Town's penny post was extended to the rest of the colony in the 1860s, telegraph cables were flung eastwards and northwards to beyond the colony's borders, and newspapers proliferated. By 1871 there were some 34 newspapers in the colony of which 24 were outside Cape Town. Most of them appeared twice a week with pages in both English and Dutch. While these innovations bound the Dutch-Afrikaners closer together, this was counterbalanced by the fact that more than 90 per cent of them still lived on the land, mostly on widely dispersed farms.

The economic boost which the Diamond Fields gave to the colony did not immediately destroy the isolation of subsistence farming. It did, however, make farmers in particular and Dutch-Afrikaners in general much more aware of new opportunities, existing constraints, and the uneven nature of economic growth. The two most important branches of agriculture in which Dutch-Afrikaners were engaged benefited little from the diamond boom. Wine production, the most important economic activity in the region and one dominated almost exclusively by Dutch-Afrikaners, faced exceedingly difficult times. A period of growth and prosperity had ended in 1861 when the British preferential tariff on Cape wines was abolished. Total wine exports plummeted from 319,146 gallons in 1863 to but 57,942 in 1875.[46] Wine surpluses increased annually, prices dropped, and by 1878 the economic position of the wine growers caused deep pessimism.[47] The wool farmers also gained little from the opening of the Diamond Fields. The value of wool exports had peaked at more than £3,000,000 in the early 1870s, but by 1885 it had dropped to less than half that in value.

Dutch-Afrikaners slowly moved into industry, but they found it difficult to compete with the more skilled English-speakers. During the 1870s and 1880s most of the wine distilleries established by Dutch-Afrikaners in the rural Western Cape went bankrupt. The Dutch-Afrikaners also entered in considerable numbers into the world of finance and property speculation which burst upon South Africa in the 1860s and 1870s, coming into competition with British interests. The state banking monopoly had ended by the middle of the nineteenth century, and in its place came district banks, of which there were 29 by 1862. Dutch-Afrikaners invested heavily in these banks and some became directors. In the early 1860s, however, strong London-based banks opened branches in South Africa. Soon there was a surfeit of investment capital chasing far too few sound investment opportunities. Many of the district banks went bankrupt as a result of incautious lending and overspeculation, and by 1882 there were only eight left. In contrast the Standard Bank's dividend rose steadily from 1865 to 1881, most of it being distributed overseas.[48]

Severe barriers also faced Dutch-Afrikaners who contemplated entering central and local government which by 1875 employed some 4500 people in the colony. Every candidate had to be fluent in English, the only official language, and the informal system of patronage was dominated by English-speakers who virtually monopolized the senior ranks. Against this general economic background, Dutch-Afrikaners began to agitate for protectionist policies to aid farmers, a national bank to counter the imperial banks, and equal status for the Dutch language. In general, English-speakers, with their base in commerce and industry and mostly unilingual, opposed these demands.


The introduction of Responsible Government in 1872 also stimulated ethnic mobilization as it created an arena in which effective contests for state patronage and revenue could take place. While there was little to contest in the 1850s and 1860s, the state's resources and capabilities were expanding rapidly by the 1870s. Between 1854 and 1874 the value of exports (including diamonds) increased eight times, that of imports three times, and revenue five times. While the government previously had been occupied with keeping expenditures down, its main concern in the 1870s and 1880s was to secure credit to develop the Diamond Fields, to construct railways and other public works, and to procure labour from the Transkeian territories. The Cape government worked hard to maintain a flow of credit, especially from London. To gain access to that credit and to benefit from state expenditure and patronage was vitally important for the fortunes of landowners, commercial farmers, local businessmen, commercial middlemen, and those active in the import-export sector.[49] It was along these avenues that the Cape Dutch-Afrikaner leader, Onze Jan Hofmeyr, would pursue his career.

Responsible Government also made possible an amendment of the Cape constitution. In the 1850s Dutch-Afrikaner leaders had supported the low, colour-blind franchise, hoping that it would counteract 'the fictitious inequality of wealth' which existed at the Cape. During the 1860s this hope gave way to disillusionment. 'Coloured' and black voters supported English merchants and traders rather than Dutch-Afrikaner candidates who represented farmers who generally paid low wages to their workers. This prompted Dutch-Afrikaner leaders to turn away from the non-racial democracy and increasingly resort to racist politics. After the introduction of Responsible Government, Hofmeyr and the Zuid-Afrikaan would more and more discuss the constitution in terms of 'Africaanderism' which meant a curtailment of the non-white franchise and the promotion of farming interests.[50]

Dutch-Afrikaner political mobilization was encouraged by the political decline of merchant hegemony and the incorporationist strategy of a Cape liberalism that was aimed especially at coloured artisans and progressive African peasants. The merchants were unable to consolidate their own class position largely because of a bitter conflict between the Cape Town and Port Elizabeth mercantile communities over railway extension and the improvement of harbour facilities. Neither group of merchants tried to establish a regional political base by attracting the support of farmers and professional men. Moreover, with the rise of Kimberley and the Witwatersrand, the Cape merchants lost their grip on the mainspring of the southern African regional economy.[51] Their political and ideological dominance receded as the Cape's English-speakers tied their fortunes to the gold-mining industry of the Transvaal based on low-paid African wage labour. Inevitably these changes undermined Cape liberalism, which was not posited on the incorporation of cheap African wage labour in the economy. The tide now clearly turned in the direction of a restrictive franchise and state intervention to meet the labour needs of farmers, a change which well suited Dutch-Afrikaner politicians.[52]

It was of course not inevitable that a colony-wide Dutch-Afrikaner political movement based on ethnic awareness would emerge. Another possibility was a farmers' party, but that went aground upon the antagonism between the English farmers and merchants in the Eastern Cape and the economically less-advanced Dutch-Afrikaner farmers in the East. That there emerged an Afrikaner party conforms to the general observation that in societies where class and ethnic ties tend to coincide rather than cross-cut, political entrepreneurs usually establish a


following by relying on emotive ethnic distinctions between 'us' and 'them'.[53] Senior English officials sensed that Responsible Government could mean the demise of the English ascendancy at the Cape. The Attorney General wrote to London in 1871 that the Boers, forming the majority of the white section in the constituencies, 'desire to keep Africa for themselves and keep down English interests and institutions'.[54]

In the framework of Cape politics, however, such sentiments had to be reinforced by a perception of a viable common culture before a specifically Dutch-Afrikaner political platform could be constructed. This brings us to the last dimension of the context in which a politically oriented ethnic consciousness developed, namely the apprehension among Dutch-Afrikaner professionals that a large section of their ethnic group faced both economic and cultural degeneration.

Accelerated economic development had greatly widened the class cleavages within Dutch-Afrikaner society. At the top were the large landholders and commercializing farmers and the Cape Dutch in the towns, who prospered as financial agents and auctioneers; then came a large number of middling farmers who managed to make ends meet; and finally, at the bottom, there were the small farmers and bywoners . From the 1870s on a large class of poor and often destitute small farmers began to form. They were unable and unwilling to do anything but farm—almost an underclass that in Marx's terms was 'passively rotting away'. Some of the most desperate of these small farmers began to migrate to the towns where they found casual employment, but others resorted to vagrancy, begging and crime. In towns all over South Africa, blacks and whites were working and living together and, in small but growing numbers, sleeping together.

This economic crisis was accompanied by a grave cultural crisis. At its apex, Dutch-Afrikaner society was losing some of its brightest minds through the steady process of anglicization. At its bottom there was the even greater threat of large numbers of the poor becoming proletarianized. The cultural crisis sprang from the economic crisis facing poor farmers. In the Eastern Cape many Afrikaner farmers could not afford to send their children to school because of the need for their labour. Some Boer farmers in 1875 even demanded a bonus for each child they sent to school to compensate for the loss of labour power that schooling meant.[55] The result was child illiteracy of alarming proportions. In the 1875 census it was estimated that only 43 per cent of children between the ages of five and fifteen in the Cape Colony could read and write, and for Dutch-Afrikaners it must have been considerably lower, assuming that English-speakers probably attained the level of their counterparts in Victoria and New Zealand, where it was about 60 per cent. It was true that almost everyone after the age of fifteen learned to read and write, but the level of these skills was in most cases extremely rudimentary. It was generally known that a large section of the Boers never read any books apart from the Bible.

By the 1870s this cultural degeneration was alarming government officials. In 1873 a series of anonymous articles appeared in the Cape Monthly Magazine, obviously the work of a well-informed person:

I would ask the ministers of religion, the promoters of education, and the responsible rulers of the Colony, if they are satisfied with things as they are?—if they realize the fact of the children of Dutch-speaking, European parentage growing up with less care bestowed upon them than upon the beasts of the field—without the ability to read or write even their mother tongue, without any instruction in the knowledge of a God that made them, having at their


command no language but a limited vocabulary of semi-Dutch, semi-Hottentot words, and those only concerning the wants or doings of themselves and the animals they tend?[56]

The author delivered a searing indictment of 'State-paid ministers' who were unconcerned about this situation and whose only visible activity was a Sunday sermon in the village church. He warned that if no remedy was found a growing criminal class would develop.

In 1867 diamonds were discovered, beginning a period of economic transformation of South Africa. The accelerated industrialization of South Africa in the wake of the mineral discoveries did not immediately transform people's self-conceptions. Invariably, collective memories persist in institutional forms when the social conditions which originally gave rise to them have evaporated. As long as they remained tied to the land, the Afrikaners retained a primary loyalty to their church and faith and to regional and other subgroupings rather than to a state or a pervasive culture. Nevertheless, a slow movement towards ethnic identification did begin, initially undertaken by ethnic culture brokers and then stimulated by catalytic political events, ultimately producing concrete expressions of a politically articulated ethnic consciousness. In the Western Cape a few clerics and teachers tried to deal with the cultural crisis of Dutch-Afrikaner semi-literacy and illiteracy; in the same region wine farmers mobilized against a tax that adversely affected their industry; and in the Transvaal near-subsistence farmers rose against the British annexation of their state.

The Culture Brokers of the Western Cape during the 1870s

It was in the Paarl-Wellington area that the first conscious attempts were made to develop a specific ethnic ideology for the Dutch-Afrikaners. The leading role was taken by two Dutch school teachers, A. Pannevis and C.P. Hoogenhout, who had settled in the area in the 1860s, and a Dutch Reformed Church minister, S.J. du Toit, the son of a Paarl wine grower. A complex set of concerns drove these men. In the first place, they were deeply disturbed by the way in which industrialization and the secularization of education were affecting Dutch-Afrikaner society. They wished to encapsulate Dutch-Afrikaners in their own institutions and culture so as to deflect alien influences. Second, they were motivated by a concern with the more general cultural crisis.

Ironically, the initial attempts at uplift were not directed at Dutch-Afrikaners. A part-time missionary, Pannevis was at first moved by the plight of the coloured population of the Western Cape whose educational opportunities were even poorer than those of the Dutch-Afrikaners. He was greatly concerned that thousands of them were unable to understand the Bible in either Dutch or English. In 1872 he made a plea in the Zuid-Afrikaan that for their sake the Bible be translated into Afrikaans, a language spoken by the vast majority of them.

Before Pannevis's plea, Afrikaans had been used in religious pamphlets and magazines directed at coloured Malays and Christians. Some 300 letters, mostly written by whites, had appeared in newspapers. However, whites used it as a dialect—or the 'lowest vernacular'—to amuse or to poke fun at the lower classes. 'Afrikaans' was a collective term denoting all the corrupted usages of Dutch in the colony. Pannevis, however, realized that Afrikaans was an excellent medium for making the Bible accessible and for providing education to poor and uneducated people. This proposal to render the Bible in Afrikaans for the coloureds was soon


de-emphasized, however, and from the mid-1870s Pannevis and Hoogenhout used all their efforts to persuade the Dutch-Afrikaners that Afrikaans was a language in its own right and that it was the true language of the white Dutch-Afrikaners.

It was Hoogenhout who saw the potential of Afrikaans as a basis of a cultural ethnic awareness to oppose English hegemony. Like Van der Lingen before him, Hoogenhout stressed the link between industrialization and anglicization, and condemned both. English was for him the language of corruption, bred at the billiard table and drinking den. The volk was being bastardized by the way in which English had completely usurped everything in the name of Progress. In his novel Catherina he wrote of the evil and corruption of the anglicized society of Cape Town and contrasted it with the worthiness of the patriarchal social relations typical of the rural Dutch-Afrikaners. In 1873 Hoogenhout appealed in the Zuid-Afrikaan for an Afrikaans translation of the Bible 'not only for brown people but also for many whites, because there are really many whites who do not understand half of the Dutch language'. He added that 'the Lord would not tolerate that the Bible should remain unintelligible to many poor people in South Africa'.[57]

Building on the work of the two Dutchmen, Du Toit declared war against British cultural hegemony, the secularization of education which undermined the traditional authorities, and the corrupting influence of industrialization. He devoted all his efforts towards making Afrikaans the cardinal ethnic symbol which encapsulated the history and the singularity of the Afrikaner people. In three newspaper articles published under the pseudonym 'A true Afrikaner', he argued that language expressed the character of a people (volk ) and that no nationality could be formed without its own language. Second, he argued that Afrikaans should be accepted as a language in its own right by the Afrikaners. Third, he criticized the process of anglicization taking place in parliament, courts, schools and churches, being particularly scathing about the DRC clergy who delivered sermons in English and who founded English-language educational institutions in the principal towns.[58]

In 1875 Du Toit, Hoogenhout and six others founded the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners (Fellowship of True Afrikaners) (GRA) in Paarl. By the mid-1870s a strong section within the dominant class considered Dutch-Afrikaners and colonial English-speakers as all being joined into a nascent Afrikaner nation. The Volksblad, for instance, remarked in 1875: 'When we speak of "Afrikanders" we do not mean Dutch-speaking or English-speaking South Africans, but the people who have been and still are being moulded into that distinct nation.'[59] In contrast, the GRA employed the concept of the Afrikaner people to denote a distinct ethnic group within the population. It divided the Afrikaner people into three groups—those with English hearts, those with Dutch hearts and those with Afrikaner hearts, and only the latter were considered to be true Afrikaners. The GRA declared itself in favour of Afrikaans and resolved not to rest before it was recognized as the national (ethnic) language. To further this, it published a newspaper, The Patriot, a nationalist history, a grammar, and some school texts in Afrikaans. Their use of Afrikaans had several dimensions: it was a political language which embodied Afrikaner ethnic self-awareness and expressed opposition to imperial rule; it was an educational instrument which would uplift large numbers of backward children; and it was a vehicle for the dissemination of the Bible among large numbers of poor and ignorant brown and white people.

Yet this emphasis on the Afrikaans language embodying the singularity of the


Afrikaners obscured the fact that the great majority of coloureds—people of slave, European and Khoikhoi descent—also spoke Afrikaans and did so much less self-consciously. No attempt was made to embrace all Afrikaans-speakers as members of a new people participating in a developing nationalist movement. The class divisions between white and brown Afrikaans-speakers were too acute for this. Whites prided themselves on being a master or 'aristocratic' class. Even its poorest members considered themselves too superior to accept employment in someone else's service, to do manual labour, or to work as artisans. Dutch-Afrikaners generally treated brown Afrikaans-speakers as a class of servants still bearing the taint of slavery.

Growing segregation widened the gulf. A trend, starting in the 1830s, to segregate coloured members of the Dutch Reformed Church found expression in the establishment of separate coloured congregations and culminated in the founding of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in 1881. Schools were segregated in 1893. No statutory residential segregation existed, but the great majority of coloured people lived together in the poorest sections of the towns. The main Afrikaner political movement did not formally exclude coloured members but did reject applications at branch level.

Thus Afrikaner ethnic consciousness from the beginning contained both a strong racist dimension and a considerable measure of self-delusion about the origins of both the ethnic group itself and the Afrikaans language. Despite the fact that a considerable proportion of marriages occurred across the colour line in the eighteenth century, The Patriot and Zuid Afrikaan spoke only of the ethnic group's white or European ancestry. In championing Afrikaans The Patriot was at pains to declare that Afrikaans was a pure Germanic language without 'Hottentot' words, and that the 'Hottentots had abandoned their language and adopted ours'. While there was still little direct economic competition between white and brown Afrikaans-speakers, this racially exclusive ethnic mobilization resulted in the increasing alienation of the coloureds.[60]

The Political Mobilization of Dutch Afrikaners after 1870

The second major development stimulating growing ethnic awareness was the rise of Dutch-Afrikaner farmers' associations (boeren vereenigingen ). During the 1870s several were formed in the northeastern and eastern part of the colony. Like their English counterparts, they began as agricultural organizations but soon began to speak out on political issues. The Albert Boeren Vereeniging, where The Patriot found an avid readership, particularly demanded the right to speak Dutch in parliament and proposed a colony-wide Afrikaner Bond based on common interests and loyalties. In 1878 the wine producers of the Western Cape were aroused by an excise bill which threatened to injure them further, and, in response, Onze Jan Hofmeyr established the Zuid Afrikaansche Boeren Beschermings Vereeniging (BBV). It was initially an organization of wine producers established to oppose the new bill, which soon was watered down. It was also a Western Cape political formation against a government dominated by English-speaking politicians of the Eastern Cape. Most importantly, it was an ethnic movement that championed Dutch-Afrikaner interests in matters as diverse as farmers' control over labour and Dutch language rights. To broaden his political base Hofmeyr defined the group as one which included 'patriotic' English-speakers. Brown Afrikaans-speakers were, however, hardly mentioned and were usually treated as a separate category.


The BBV scored a remarkable success in the 1878–79 elections, winning nine of the twenty-one upper house seats and a third of those of the lower house. Soon after the elections, however, enthusiasm dwindled. The BBV failed to attract more than a thousand members and barely extended outside the Western Cape. Efforts to link up with the eastern farmers' associations were not successful, and those associations themselves failed to form their own coordinating body. In 1880 Du Toit seized the initiative by founding the Afrikaner Bond, which aimed at coordinating the activities of the GRA, BBV and eastern boeren vereengingen and linking them with Dutch-Afrikaners in the Boer republics. The Bond's principles represented a compromise between Du Toit's exclusive and Hofmeyr's inclusive strategies. On the one hand, there was Du Toit's attack on speculators, foreign banks and traitors in parliament, criticism of the education of the Dutch-Afrikaners while 'millions of pounds' were spent on the education of the English, and complaints about the sacrifice of 'Africa's interests to England, or those of the Farmer to the Merchant'. On the other hand, the Bond's definition of the 'Afrikaner' was the one favoured by Hofmeyr: all those who recognized Africa as their fatherland and wanted to work together for the good of a united South Africa.[61]

In the Transvaal Dutch-Afrikaner ethnic awareness was politicized by the successful revolt in 1881 of the burghers against the British occupation of their state. As De Kiewiet aptly puts it: the unity of the Transvaal burghers when it finally came 'was not really proof of a slow cementing into consistency and durability of their opinions and practice, but a more rapid fusing in the heat of the clash with the British government'.[62] The resistance of the Transvaal burghers indeed became a remarkably vigorous ethnic mobilization. Mass meetings were held where large numbers of burghers camped out for several days to listen to speeches by the leaders. Petitions against the annexation were signed by between one half and two-thirds of a total population of some 8000 burghers. In this mobilization all political divisions were temporarily transcended. The annexation had, as Judge Kotze put it, 'given birth to a strong national feeling among the Boers; it had united them and all were now for the state'.[63]

After the war, the generals, using their new status as 'national leaders', appealed to the burghers to end the political and religious divisions. In Paul Kruger the Transvaal had a president who succeeded far better than Burgers had in becoming the focus of a Transvaal loyalty and in developing a sense of community. In his speeches and in several history books that appeared after the war a new basis for historical consciousness was propounded. This history was, as Van Jaarsveld notes, 'a tabulation of grievances and a story of clashes between Boer and Briton'. Its spirit was 'that of "wrong", "injustice" and "oppression"'. The Great Trek was interpreted as a 'sacred passion for freedom' and the Battle of Blood River, where the Voortrekkers in 1838 had won a major victory over the Zulu, began to occupy a central place in the historical mythology.[64] After the war the commemoration of this battle became a truly national festive occasion for the first time. The five-yearly festivals at Paardekraal were great events. In 1881 a crowd estimated at between 12,000 and 15,000 listened with rapt attention to the patriotic speeches of Kruger and others.

These three developments—the founding of the GRA and the so-called First Afrikaans Language Movement, the establishment of the BBV and Bond, and the Transvaal revolt—are often considered by historians as constituting the 'awakening' of Afrikaner nationalism, and there is indeed some evidence to support this view. The writings of The Patriot encouraged the Transvaal burghers to resist actively, and their successful revolt in turn boosted ethnic initiatives in


the Western Cape and elsewhere. The Patriot had struggled to survive with a circulation of only 500 in 1877, but after the war of 1880–81 it jumped to 3000. Du Toit himself thought that the glorious Boer victory at Majuba gave birth to the Afrikaner nation. In 1881 a pan-Afrikaner ethnic movement really seemed to have taken off. In many places in the Cape Colony and Free State Dutch-Afrikaners expressed their solidarity with the Transvaal burghers. They saw the revolt as a struggle which affected everyone of Dutch and French descent with 'a true Afrikaans' spirit. In Hofmeyr's words it filled the 'Afrikanders, otherwise grovelling in the mud of materialism, with a national glow of sympathy for the brothers across the Transvaal'.[65]

The Afrikaner Bond greatly benefited from this upsurge of ethnic emotions. At the end of 1880 it had only three branches, but after the revolt branches were founded in numerous places, particularly in the Eastern Cape, but also in the Orange Free State and Transvaal. In 1883 the BBV and Bond were merged after Hofmeyr outmanoeuvred the Du Toit faction, and the Bond emerged as the strongest bloc in the Cape Parliament, increasing the proportion of Dutch-Afrikaner representatives from approximately one-third in the years between 1854 and 1885 to just under one-half in the last sixteen years of the century. It easily secured formal approval for Dutch to be used in parliament, in the courts, and as medium of instruction in schools.

The Faltering of Ethnic Consciousness in the 1880s

Yet despite these early accomplishments, Afrikaner political ethnicity failed to sustain its momentum. Three forces worked against it: first, continuing British imperial hegemony; second, deepening class cleavages within the Dutch-Afrikaner group; and, third, intense inter-state rivalry between the Cape Colony and Transvaal. All of these contributed to an incoherent and inconsistent ideological conception of 'Afrikanerhood'.

The inhibiting force of British political hegemony was evident in the Cape Colony even at the time of the Transvaal protests and revolt. Despite their strong feelings of solidarity with the Transvaal burghers and resentment at British imperial arrogance, the Dutch-Afrikaners—particularly the Cape Dutch—were reluctant to engage in any kind of politics that challenged the dominant consensus. This consensus demanded an almost unqualified political loyalty to Britain and to the ideal of common nationhood for the two white population groups. While Hofmeyr and several branches of the BBV in 1880 protested against the annexation, only one branch received a Transvaal deputation seeking to rally the support of the Cape. The BBV in general acted in an uncoordinated and unconvincing way.[66]

After Britain granted a qualified independence to the Transvaal, Hofmeyr declared in parliament: 'The generosity of the terms had strengthened the loyalty of the Dutch in the Colony . . . [and] had given it a warmth and heartiness which it never had before.'[67] In the course of the 1880s Hofmeyr came to reject the Afrikaner Bond's call of Africa for the 'Afrikanders' and South African political unity under its own flag in favour of a political union under the British flag. President Brand of the Orange Free State also sought to maintain ties of the closest political and economic unity with the Cape Colony, and, by extension, with Great Britain, and to promote Dutch-Afrikaner and English unity. He thus strongly attacked Du Toit's Afrikaner Bond as destructive. Only Kruger in the Transvaal took an opposite approach. Even he, however, espoused a Transvaal nationalism whose point of departure was loyalty to the Transvaal state and which


was not based on an 'organic' Afrikaner unity.[68]

English cultural hegemony reinforced British political rule. Despite the formal recognition of Dutch, the English language maintained its dominant position in the Cape's schools, courts and parliament. In growing numbers, better educated Dutch-Afrikaners spoke English in public debates and used English for correspondence and even in their personal diaries. The situation was little different in the Free State. Its rural schools were usually started by wealthier farmers who set a premium on English as the language of commerce and intellectual discourse and who deliberately sought out English teachers. In the early 1880s a school inspector found that only a third of the schools he visited used Dutch as the sole medium of instruction. A cleric reported: 'I cannot neglect mentioning how much talking and writing in English has become prominent in the Free State, especially in the towns. Nowhere else did I have to speak so much English as there.'[69] Before the end of the nineteenth century public and social life in Bloemfontein was almost exclusively English.

A major problem in the Transvaal was illiteracy—in 1877 it was estimated that only 8 per cent of white children of school age were attending, as opposed to 50 per cent in the Cape Colony and 12 per cent in the Orange Free State. The opening of the goldfields in the 1880s brought with it deep cleavages in the community over the question of education along with fresh opportunities for capital accumulation. A group of Dutch-Afrikaners, often the products of English education in the Cape, demanded the inclusion of much more English in the syllabus. Against these 'progressives' stood President Kruger who made Dutch the medium of instruction and who was strongly supported by Dutch immigrant civil servants and school teachers and by the Dopper Church. S.J. du Toit, who had become head of Kruger's education department, sided with the 'progressives' against Kruger and his 'Hollanders' and was remarkably lax in enforcing the language ruling. When Dr Mansvelt, a Hollander, became Superintendent of Education in 1892, an attempt was made to enforce Dutch as the medium of instruction in all higher standards. This sparked an outcry from the 'progressives' who saw English as a prerequisite for their economic advancement as well as from the substantial English population of Johannesburg. Mansvelt was forced to back down, and the state continued to subsidize schools where Dutch was taught at least four hours a week.[70]

Possible ethnic solidarity was further undermined by the deepening class divisions within Dutch-Afrikaner society. In the Cape Colony there was in fact little in common between the well-educated Cape-Dutch, acting as financial middlemen in the towns, and the common, lowly Boers. In the competition between Hofmeyr's BBV and Du Toit's Bond there was a distinct class dimension. The BBV appealed to the upper or middle class in contrast with the more populist Bond which criticized the large sums expended on railway extension and attacked British banks and merchants as alien fortune-seekers.

While the BBV members spoke what passed as High Dutch or simplified Dutch, the GRA and Du Toit's Bond deliberately chose Afrikaans, regarded as the language of both coloured workers and the poor and ignorant class of Dutch-Afrikaner society. The BBV's mouthpiece, the Zuid-Afrikaan, haughtily commented that 'brandy and The Patriot have this in common: that they are enemies of civilization'.[71] It was a matter of surprise when it was discovered that The Patriot was read not only by bywoners but by 'civilized people' as well.[72] While the GRA busily tried to invent a national culture, the BBV's membership did not care much for culture and worried rather about their class interests. In 1878 a speaker at a Paarl dinner for parliamentarians expressed the hope that the


enthusiasm for a 'nationality' would lead to the establishment of brandy as a national drink and that the moment would soon arrive when there was a South African nation and a South African national drink.[73]

After Hofmeyr took over the Bond he toned down the nationalist strains. The Bond accorded a prominent rhetorical place in speeches to the lowly Boer farmer, but its true base was the town-based businessmen, rich landholders and commercial farmers. The leadership of Hofmeyr's movement was derived from such groups, and they increasingly looked to the state to further their interests, not least through the provision of public works. In towns they organized petitions for the building of courts, magistracies and local railways. The large flow of credit from London cemented the Bond's collaborating relationship with British imperialism.[74] The less affluent whites on the farms and in the towns shared little of this enthusiasm for development and modernization. In a town like Graaff-Reinet the poor, known as the 'backstreet people', at one stage refused to pay municipal rates. But over the longer run there was little the poor could do against the dominant position of the Bond and the commercial stranglehold of English-speakers. Du Toit's proposals for a national bank, boerewinkels (farmers' cooperative stores), and consumer boycotts all came to nothing.

In the Transvaal and Orange Free State the rapid commercialization of farming during the 1880s and 1890s created a growing gulf between landless and landed Dutch-Afrikaners. The large farmers accumulated wealth through their access to office and their ability to exploit large numbers of Africans living on their land. They successfully resisted demands from the 'levellers'—usually poor and middling farmers—that African labour be evenly distributed among the farmers. By the end of the century many farmers, having lost patience with bywoners desperately clinging to their status as whites, chose to have rent-paying or share-cropping Africans on their farms. That growing numbers of poor whites had little interest in ethnic appeals is shown in their large scale defection to British ranks in the Anglo-Boer War.

The final reason why Afrikaner ethnic consciousness did not develop as a political force transcending parochial territorial boundaries lay in the interstate rivalries of the 1880s. The root of the problem was the Cape's desperate search for revenue to meet its rapidly growing liabilities, attempting constantly to extend its trade and railway network beyond its northern boundaries. Despite the fact that the Bond was the strongest party in Parliament, it did little or nothing to ease the financial distress of the republics and more than once rejected requests that the inland states be allocated a share of the customs duties collected at the Cape ports. A recent study thus describes the Bond as blinkered, selfish and parochial in this respect.[75]

The discovery of gold confronted the Cape with the sudden prospect of becoming the 'poor relation' in South Africa. Kruger blocked the extension of the Cape railway system into the Rand, the new powerhouse of the South African economy, threw obstacles in the way of trade in agricultural products and made it as difficult for Cape Dutch-Afrikaners in the Transvaal to obtain citizenship as it was for other Uitlanders . At the same time, Hofmeyr and his Bond were increasingly acting as British imperial agents by supporting British-backed expansion which aimed at the encirclement and isolation of the Transvaal. In 1887, amid growing tensions over railway and trade policies, four Cape Town Bondsmen, including Hofmeyr, wrote to Kruger:

We must admit having noticed a cooling off of the warm feeling of attachment to the cause of our Transvaal brothers, that showed itself from 1877 to 1881.


We fear that unless events take another course, it will soon be almost impossible to obtain in the Cape Colony a similar expression of sympathy for you, as on that occasion . . . . [Once] a division arises between kinsfolk, one cannot foresee where it will end, and the Africander cause is far from being strong enough to be able to face division between Transvaal and Colonial sons of the soil.[76]

But division did grow. By 1890 Hofmeyr was so much under Rhodes's influence that he was willing to travel to Pretoria to tell Kruger that he could not unconditionally claim Swaziland.[77] Kruger thundered at him: 'You are a traitor, a traitor to the Africander cause.'[78] Yet, despite his objections to the Transvaal's stringent franchise qualifications for Uitlanders —particularly Cape-Afrikaner Uitlanders —Hofmeyr continued to profess his sympathy and affection for the Transvaal with the words 'blood is thicker than water'.[79] These and even Kruger's words certainly suggests an awareness of Afrikaners as members of a common ethnic community. However, for Kruger and Hofmeyr the basis of political action and the definition of the concept Afrikaner were quite different.

Indeed during the last quarter of the nineteenth century the very concept of 'Afrikaner' remained highly ambiguous. At the one end of the spectrum there was the GRA and The Patriot who defined the term in the ethnic sense of a people with a common descent and history. For Hofmeyr and the Zuid-Afrikaan, Afrikaners were a volk or a nation-in-being comprised of both Dutch-Afrikaners and English-speakers who were loyal to the Cape and believed in the need to maintain white supremacy against the Africans.[80] While James Rose Innes, a leading Cape liberal, did not consider himself an Afrikaner, which in his view was defined as people belonging to the oldest section of the white population and newcomers holding specific views on the Native Question, Cecil John Rhodes embraced the inclusive concept of Afrikanerhood.[81] Eagerly availing himself of the political base Hofmeyr's Bond offered him, he stated in 1890 that his government would be an 'Afrikander' one, and he indeed shared the Bond's views on labour and African policy.[82] Edmund Garrett, editor of the Cape Times, coined the phrase 'John Bull Afrikander' in asserting that Britain by 1890 was acting only in the interests of South Africa as a whole.[83] Finally, there was the conception of leading Transvaal burghers, such as F.G. Wolmarans and Schalker Burger who both served as chairman of the Volksraad. They defined the term Afrikaner in narrow, republican terms. Propagating a distinct Transvaal nationalism, Burger stated flatly that 'everyone from beyond the borders of the republic must be viewed as a stranger, no matter if he came from the Free State, the Colony, England or Holland, etc'.[84]

Despite these divisive forces, a degree of ethnic awareness and commitment had been attained by the 1880s. The catalytic forces that produced it did not fade away. Indeed they would intensify over the next twenty to thirty years. British imperial policy did become more conciliatory in the 1880s (leading to the waning of Hofmeyr's ethnic fervour), but the mid-1890s saw the emergence of an aggressive British imperialism which threatened to sweep aside Dutch-Afrikaner political and cultural autonomy. In the meantime the conflicts arising from the changing political economy increased as did the cultural struggle waged by people whose livelihoods depended on mastery of a foreign language. By the turn of the century Dutch-Afrikaners would, on a much broader level, see themselves as a distinct political group and would attempt to develop a separate culture—they had become Afrikaners. The task of extending and institutionalizing Afrikaner ethnicity differed in the Cape and the two republics. In the Transvaal and Orange


Free State the state preceded the nation, and political expressions of ethnic consciousness could accordingly feed on the idea of national self-determination in addition to responding to class needs. In the Cape Colony, however, it had to grow from a shared culture and common economic concerns.

The Institutionalization of Ethnic Consciousness in the Cape to 1915

It was in the Western Cape, and in particular the Stellenbosch/Paarl region, that the first viable Afrikaner ethnic movement took root and grew. For various reasons, Du Toit and the GRA in the 1870s did not appeal to the intellectual class of Dutch-Afrikaners. Du Toit was a controversial figure, disliked by the church hierarchy, and The Patriot's Afrikaans was considered too vulgar and banal to have any appeal. Nevertheless clergy and teachers in growing numbers recognized the need for an alternative culture. The modernizing colonial state was obliterating the old distinction between the public sphere and the private life of family and church, posing the threat not only of anglicization but also of undermining the authority of Dutch-Afrikaner clergy and teachers. What made the matter all the more pressing for the clergy was the state's decision in 1874 to disestablish the church. Ministers of religion could no longer look to it for their salaries but had to rely instead upon their parishes. It can hardly be a coincidence that from 1874 onwards the church took a greatly increased interest in the education of Dutch-Afrikaner children and in ethnic issues. Clergymen figured prominently in the establishment of BBV and Bond branches. And in the early 1880s the church was suddenly prominent in the agitation for the recognition of Dutch as an official language. In growing numbers ministers of religion and teachers rejected the inclusive definition of Afrikaner and asserted a close link between language and nationality.

In the 1870s and 1880s Hofmeyr had argued that Dutch was merely of instrumental value in educating the Dutch-Afrikaners to enable them to claim equal rights with English-speakers. Always sensitive to any movement in his constituency that might outflank him, Hofmeyr from the 1890s began to emphasize the close links between language and ethnic identity and argued that they were mutually dependent on one another. But Hofmeyr's bland ethnic formulations were already overtaken by a more radical ideology espoused by a new generation of relatively well-educated ministers of religion and teachers who were eager to invent and elaborate an ethnic culture. By the turn of the century they were taking a leading role all over South Africa in commemorations of the Battle of Blood River and the founding of debating societies. Both served to heighten ethnic consciousness on a grassroots level among the rural population.[85] In the Cape Colony the new movement would find its leader in Daniel François Malan, a DRC clergyman who returned to South Africa in 1905 after studying theology in the Netherlands and who was to become leader of the Nationalist Party in the 1930s. In the Netherlands Malan had watched Abraham Kuyper implementing the verzuiling (segmentation) of Dutch society along religious and class lines. Once back in South Africa, Malan spread the new gospel that religious, cultural and political separatism could be the only basis for cooperation between the Afrikaners and the English.

In isolation these clergymen and teachers could not achieve much. For their ethnic movement to acquire momentum it was necessary to link up with farmers, in particular men of some wealth, who also found ethnic identification both


materially and psychologically rewarding. Obvious candidates were the wine farmers who belonged to the 'best of families' and who were possessors of old wealth. There were two main reasons why the wine farmers of the Western Cape by the turn of the century were increasingly attracted to ethnic strategies, and not only in the economic field.

First, the structural relationship between the Dutch-speaking farmers and the English-speaking merchants virtually built an ethnic dimension into the political process. Before the BBV was formed in 1878 some wine farmers and wine merchants had been joined in a wine producers' association but it soon fell apart because of the conflict of interests: the merchants did not buy enough wine, which they considered inferior, and they failed to protest against the Excise Bill, which they did not see as a threat to them. Conflict within the wine industry continued in the decades before Union. Although there was generally a huge local wine surplus, the wine producers had to endure strong competition from wine and brandy imports which the merchants found more profitable to handle. Figures for retail sales of foreign spirits were 44 per cent of that of Cape wine and brandy in 1892, rising to 69 per cent in 1895 and over 80 per cent in 1897 before declining to 72 per cent in 1904.[86] In that year the Jameson government, known for its lack of sympathy for Dutch-Afrikaner causes and interests, imposed a tax on Cape brandy that was 67 per cent higher than the import tax on the foreign product.[87] Wheat farmers found it equally difficult to compete with cereals imported from Australia and the regions north of the Cape Colony.[88] The Bond constantly sought governmental protection for wine and other agricultural products. The desire for agricultural protection was one of the main reasons why the Dutch-Afrikaner farming population supported the Afrikaner Bond almost to a man in the last election before Unification.

Second, the farmers' financial situation prompted them to turn to local banks and trust companies. From the 1890s these local institutions began to attract a growing flow of funds from both the rich and the poor, the farmers and the professionals. As local sentiment turned into ethnic sentiment, these institutions facilitated the encapsulation of classes within the ethnic group and the accumulation of resources that was necessary before major ethnic projects could be launched. By the turn of the century an ethnic establishment comprised of some affluent farmers who were also shareholders or directors of local financial institutions, professional men, and leading figures in the DRC and the university college in Stellenbosch had emerged.

It is necessary to elaborate briefly. The British-backed Standard Bank, which started doing business in both Paarl and Stellenbosch by 1880, did not covet the average wine producer as a client. In general, wine farmers were heavily in debt as the bulk of the wine fetched prices not much higher than production costs. Increasingly farmers began to turn to local financial institutions. It is sometimes suggested in the literature that Afrikaners were manipulated by ethnic entrepreneurs into supporting ethnic enterprises. The Paarl Board of Executors, the Stellenbosch District Bank and other institutions, however, in fact offered real services. Because they were small and ran a risk of collapsing, they had to offer much better rates than the Standard Bank in order to compete. In the 1880s the District Bank was paying 5 to 5.5 or 6 per cent on fixed deposits and 2 per cent on current accounts, compared to the Standard which paid an average of 3. 5 per cent on fixed deposits and no interest on current accounts. In contrast to the Standard, the District Bank made no charge on country cheques and ledger fees. The same applied to credit. The branch manager of the Standard Bank had to apply the head office's well-tried general rules in extending credit. In general it preferred to


extend long-term credit to sound commercial and speculative enterprises. In this respect a district bank suited the farmers' needs much better. The farming operations of Stellenbosch and Paarl did not require long-term credit but short-term, seasonal credit based on the assumption that the harvest would cover production costs. This introduced the factor of risk, which the manager of a local bank could better assess than his Standard Bank counterpart.

All this worked to the disadvantage of the Standard Bank. On top of all this came the Jameson Raid of 1895–96 and the Anglo-Boer War which were not only major blows to Hofmeyr's political collaboration with imperial policies but also greatly strengthened financial anti-imperialism. The District Bank, which had weathered a serious crisis in the late 1880s, capitalized on this and on the economic boom which the colony enjoyed from 1895 to 1904. It was patronized by both large and small farmers, professionals, the university college and the town council. In 1904 the Standard Bank inspection report noted that the District Bank had the best of all the advance business and all farm mortgages. It described the directors of the bank as local magnates. In the 1880s, the Standard Bank had expected the imminent collapse of its local rival. By 1908, however, its own branch was running at a loss and District Bank showed a profit of £2400 for the first six months after writing off £4000 for bad debts. An inspection report blamed it on the bitter feelings towards the British and 'the few loyalists of their own nationality'. The report of 1909 was more explicit:

At the present time we can hardly hope to do much here, our rivals the Stellenbosch District Bank receiving a large measure of support from the local populace and institutions. The causes of this support appear to be largely in sentiment and the clannishness of the Afrikander under the lead of a few influential men. No doubt they often accept risks also which we ourselves would never care to take.[89]

This mobilization of financial assets along ethnic lines was accompanied by a large-scale cultural mobilization. The Anglo-Boer War, the disenfranchisement of the rebels from the Cape and the retrogressive post-war policy regarding language rights stung Dutch-Afrikaner politicians and intellectuals into action. In 1905 Hofmeyr delivered a major speech in Stellenbosch in which he attacked the neglect of Dutch in schools and among Dutch-Afrikaners. Language equality was a fiction, he declared. The younger generation of intellectuals vigorously sympathized with the call for equal language rights, but they no longer had any enthusiasm for Dutch. Even in the 1880s and 1890s there had been a growing belief among the clergy and teachers that to insist on Dutch as an educational instrument would mean writing off the large lower class of Dutch-Afrikaners who would never be able to master the language properly. They now believed that the answer lay in making Afrikaans a respectable spoken and written language by professionalizing it, by using simplified Dutch spelling rather than the ultra-phonetic spelling of the GRA, by creating a true literature rather than a collection of rhymes, and, in general, by shedding its image of being the language of the poor. In 1908 Malan stated: 'Raise the Afrikaans language to a written language, let it become the vehicle for our culture, our history, our national ideals, and you will also raise the people who speak it.'[90]

In founding the South African Academy for Arts and Sciences in 1909, the Dutch-Afrikaner leaders still compromised by promoting both Dutch and Afrikaans. But among students from Stellenbosch Afrikaans had already won the day and they would enthusiastically carry it forward as the ethnic language of a new people, 'the Afrikaners'. This new concept had still many bastions to


conquer, but the merger of culture and economic concerns had created a formidable force. A key figure in the new ethnic establishment was J.H. (Jannie) Marais. He had made a fortune on the Kimberley mines before returning to Stellenbosch in 1891 to take up farming just outside the town. After the war he became the largest shareholder of the Stellenbosch District Bank. Marais's financial backing provided a vital breakthrough for institutions that were to play an indispensable role in the development of Afrikaner ethnic consciousness in the Cape's political arena. One such institution was the University of Stellenbosch. After the establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910, there was a strong move to establish a single, overarching teaching university in Cape Town. This would have posed a severe threat to both Stellenbosch's Victoria College, which was in danger of becoming merely a high school, and to Afrikaner ethnic aspirations. It would also have entailed a devastating blow to the town of Stellenbosch generally and to the District Bank in particular, as it was estimated that by 1915 £130,000 was spent in Stellenbosch by the various educational institutions as compared to the £60,000-£ 100,000 brought in by wine and brandy production. Local businessmen and leading figures in the Dutch Reformed Church and the University of Stellenbosch strongly protested against downgrading Victoria College. But the move to establish 'an authentic Dutch-Afrikaans university' in Stellenbosch only acquired real momentum after Marais (who died in 1915) bequeathed £100,000 to Victoria College.

Marais—and to a lesser extent the District Bank—also played a decisive role in the establishment of Nasionale Pers and its newspaper, Die Burger . The decision to start a publishing house and a nationalist newspaper was taken at the end of 1914 in the house of Hendrik Bergh, manager of the District Bank. Apart from Bergh, fifteen men were present—including four academics, two lawyers and Bruckner de Villiers, a businessman who also served as Marais's private secretary. The remainder were active or retired farmers. As far as can be ascertained the twelve Stellenbosch men were all clients of the District Bank. Unable to raise the £8000 required to start a newspaper, they approached Marais who took out 5000 one pound shares. Six months later the first issue of Die Burger appeared with D. F. Malan as editor.

There was no immediate swing in the Western Cape to the new National Party of James Barry Hertzog, founded in 1913. Farmers in this region had consolidated behind Hofmeyr's Afrikaner Bond which at Unification in 1910 was absorbed into the South African Party of Generals Smuts and Botha. As both this party and Hertzog's breakaway party based their programme of principles on that adopted by the Afrikaner Bond in 1889, the National Party initially failed to make headway in the Cape Province. But the rebellion in 1914–15 of dissident Afrikaner generals who objected to South Africa's participation in World War I and its suppression by the government prompted Marais to take a stand against the pro-Empire policy of the government and to support a newspaper which would give priority to the rights of 'eigen land en volk ', as he put it, and not to demands and wishes emanating from Johannesburg and elsewhere.[91]

The growing support for the National Party between 1915 and 1929, when it captured the Stellenbosch and Paarl seats, was complementary to the channelling of Afrikaner farming capital into Afrikaner institutions such as the Paarl Board of Executors and the Stellenbosch District Bank. They had been turned into vigorous enterprises by the 1920s. Political anti-imperialism thus had its parallel in financial anti-imperialism. At the same time the difficulties wine farmers experienced in marketing their wine made them increasingly inclined to support parties and schemes which favoured intervention on behalf of the farmers. In


1918, two years after the wine price had slumped to an average of £2 per leaguer, the Kooperatiewe Winjwbouwers Vereeniging van Zuid-Afrika (KWV), an overarching wine cooperative, was founded.[92] However, the KWV had only limited success until the promulgation of the Wine and Spirit Control Act of 1924 which prohibited the purchase of wine for distilling purposes without the permission of the KWV or below a price fixed by it. The fact that the tasks of marketing and distilling were now taken out of their hands freed the wine farmers from the necessity of incurring large capital expenses. On a far larger scale than before they could now invest their savings. A considerable share of this capital found its way to the District Bank and institutions like Sanlam and Santam which unambiguously projected themselves as specifically Afrikaner enterprises.[93]

These developments point to the socio-economic base of the 1929 Nationalist electoral victory in the 'wine seats' of Paarl and Stellenbosch. The active involvement of Stellenbosch and Paarl farmers in local financial institutions and ethnic projects laid the groundwork for the Cape Afrikaner economic and cultural advance during the 1920s and 1930s. This was the main support base of the 'purified' Afrikaner nationalist movement that was launched in 1933 under the leadership of D.F. Malan and other Cape Afrikaner nationalists and for the southern wing of that party.

Ethnic Revivals in the Free State and the Transvaal 1890–1915

In the Free State the sway of patriarchal leaders began to break down in the 1880s. The land had filled up much more evenly than in the Transvaal. There were few notables who could flaunt the authority of the central government as could occur north of the Vaal. A relatively modern state, free from anarchy and graft, was in place by 1890. With the opening of the gold fields in 1886 South Africa's economic point of gravity shifted towards the Transvaal. The Free State now began to move out of the Cape's economic orbit and directed itself politically and economically towards the Transvaal. The British imperial aggression against the Transvaal was seen by the Free State as an attack on its own autonomy, for which it was prepared to go to war in 1899.

However, even before the war there were signs of a more vigorous ethnic self-awareness being cultivated by an alliance of intellectuals and commercializing farmers. During the 1890s ethnic entrepreneurs saw the Free State as being under attack economically as well as politically. Unable to adapt to the market created by the gold fields, many subsistence farmers in the northern and eastern Free State sold out to English-speaking farmers who produced commercially for the market. M.T. Steyn, who became president in 1895, warned the Free State burghers that if this continued their sons would in due course become tenants on their fathers' land.[94] After the languid 1880s, during which the British had been generally conciliatory to the republics, politics seemed to come alive in the 1890s, as tension with the British increased. Debating societies and farmers' associations sprang up in many towns. In 1896 the OVS Boeren Beschermen (Orange Free State Farmers' Protection Society) presented itself to Steyn as the 'national party' and requested lower taxes and improved labour legislation. One of its offshoots was the Vrystaatse Jongelingsvereeniging (Free State Youth Society), which expressed the need for a journal that would expound an 'Afrikaner nationality . . . and would use no other language than Afrikaans or Dutch'. They wanted this nationality to be like a wall around them to protect them


against foreign intrusion.[95] In the build-up to war, Steyn, who had married an English-speaking woman and easily moved in the bi-cultural society of Bloemfontein, also began to fear the demise of his state and his people. He stressed the vital importance of language: "The language is the people and if we neglect our language we would have to expect the gradual atrophy of our national existence.'[96]

After the Anglo-Boer War, Hertzog would make ethnic politics the cornerstone of his Orangia Unie movement. In a colony where the great majority of the white population was Dutch/Afrikaans-speaking there was little need for a party devoted to reconciliation with the English on the model of the Cape's Afrikaner Bond. Reconciliation was in any case made extremely difficult by the devastation of the war and an aggressive post-war British administration which closed down Dutch private schools and compensated for this only by minimal concessions towards Dutch-medium education in the state schools. The sentiment expressed by many Free State English-speakers that they were Afrikaners—but not Boers—began to fade away. A politically active ethnic consciousness, with Hertzog as its champion, was thus intensified by the experiences of the war and the British assault on language and culture. Yet Hertzog did not develop a coherent ethnic ideology. Even after his breakaway from the South African Party in 1912 he used the term 'Afrikaner' both in its exclusive sense and in Hofmeyr's inclusive sense.[97] When and from whom he adopted his policy of the segregation of whites and blacks and of Afrikaner cultural separatism has not yet been properly investigated. But both in Stellenbosch and Potchefstroom intellectuals had been attracted to these ideas before Hertzog thought of breaking away. Hertzog himself remained an ambiguous leader, uniting people behind him on a basis of personal loyalty rather than through deeply shared convictions. This was true in 1913 when Hertzog led the Free State out of the South African Party and in 1933 when he merged his National Party with the pro-Empire South African Party of Smuts.

The development of Afrikaner ethnicity as a political force took a different course in the Transvaal. In the 1890s there was a growing commitment in the independent Transvaal to promote the Afrikaner and republican character of the state. There were, of course, political divisions among the burghers. On the one hand, there was the conservative faction of traditional Boers, headed by Kruger. On the other, there were the 'progressives' representing progressive commercial farmers and a new generation of better-educated professionals and civil servants, the most able and senior of whom came from the Cape.

To some extent, this division was once again between an exclusive and inclusive conception of nation and state building. Kruger and his followers put a low premium upon education and bitterly resented the use of English in schools as something which undermined the national culture. As a Transvaal nationalist, he was reluctant to enter any alliances that might possibly compromise the state. Even when, after the Jameson Raid, the Free State proposed closer unity between the two republics Kruger waited eight months to respond. The 'progressives', on the other hand, were more inclined than Kruger to regard 'patriotic' Uitlanders as potential burghers and Afrikaners. They were modernizers who attacked the nepotism, corruption, incompetence and maladministration under Kruger's patriarchal state and proposed thorough-going reforms. But they could be equally exclusivist, and this was especially evident in their attacks on the Dutchmen appointed by Kruger to senior positions in the civil service. It is notable that in their opposition to Kruger, the 'progressives' took care to distance themselves from the Uitlanders and presented themselves as acting in the best interests of local Afrikaner society.[98]


The Jameson Raid and the impending war produced a closing of political ranks and ended any chance of the 'progressives' toppling Kruger as president. Yet during the war the Transvaal leadership changed drastically. The older generation of patriarchs and incompetents yielded to a new class of leaders, much more efficient and successful agriculturally, professionally, and militarily than their predecessors. Identified with the pre-war opposition, they were recruited from wealthy landowners, such as Louis Botha, Schalk Burger and Koos de la Rey, and professional men, such as Jan Smuts, Christiaan Beyers and Louis Esselen. It was this new leadership who took charge of the politics of reconstruction after the war's end in 1902. Against the background of a devastated countryside and acute poverty, they saw their first task as building an ethnic political base in a situation where Dutch-Afrikaners formed half of the white population but only a third of the potential voters. The development of a politically articulated ethnic consciousness was greatly facilitated by the post-war policies of the British administration under Lord Milner. Instead of reconciliation, Milner deliberately used education to shape imperial citizens. Yet, despite this, he made no attempt to exploit in Britain's interest the class and ideological divisions among Dutch-Afrikaners by diverting government resources to the patronage of the bywoner class who had supported Britain in the war. The political expression of ethnic awareness was also fostered by the constitutions which Britain granted first to the self-governing Transvaal colony and then to the Union of South Africa. White manhood suffrage meant that it was in the interest of the Dutch-Afrikaner leaders to mobilize the bywoners behind them. And the exclusion of Africans from the franchise effectively ended the white landlord-African tenant and other cross-racial linkages that had grown up in the decade or so before the war.[99]

It was in such circumstances that the leaders, with the help of the various Dutch Reformed Churches, addressed the acute divisions between the bittereinders (generally the men who fought until the 'bitter end' of the war) on the one hand and the 'joiners' and 'hands-uppers' on the other. These divisions were sufficiently healed for Het Volk, a mass Dutch Afrikaner party, to be formed. It won the 1907 election handsomely, as well as the first election under Union before being absorbed by the South African Party in 1911. Selborne and Milner, the British administrators on the spot, clearly realized that this was not the manifestation of an organic ethnic unity but the work of cultural brokers who had constructed a set of alliances with an ethnic framework. In a report of 1905 Milner distinguished between the bulk of the Boer people and the 'political Boers, the Afrikander party' whose ideal was the doctrine of 'a separate Afrikander nation and State'. He concluded:

[T]he Afrikander doctrine emanates essentially from the towns and the nonagricultural middle class, and is 'pumped into' the country Boers . . . It is quite certain that, but for the influence of parsons, doctors, attorneys, law agents, journalists, and the more educated and town-frequenting of their own class, the country Boers as a body would not be irreconcilable.[100]

Declining support was now given to the tendency to define Afrikanerhood in inclusive terms. A knowledgeable observer noted in 1906 that the dictionary meaning of 'Africander' was still 'one born of white parents in South Africa'; however, he added, 'the Dutch have arrogated to themselves the title of Africanders which has come to have a political meaning'.[101] In his view the country had become an 'Africander land', the title of his book.


Revived Ethnic Mobilization After 1910

But Botha and Smuts as leaders of the Het Volk failed, in the end, to harness the support of this separatist political ethnic consciousness. Once in power, these leaders increasingly were drawn into the developing state-capital symbiosis. This symbiosis depended on industry providing an environment which ensured profits and attracted an expanding supply of finance capital from abroad. Locked into the international capitalist system, Botha and Smuts embarked on policies of reconciliation calculated to attract investors and political support from beyond their ethnic base. This meant dropping the popular anti-(British) capitalism plank of Het Volk and shelving the idea that the mines should solve the acute white unemployment problem by using unskilled whites in the place of blacks. It also entailed giving only lukewarm support to Dutch-Afrikaner cultural aspirations about which neither Botha nor Smuts cared very much.[102]

The period between 1905 and 1915 witnessed the emergence of the constituent parts of the subsequent nationalist alliance in the Transvaal. In the vanguard was the Afrikaner educated stratum, particularly ministers of religion, teachers and journalists. This stratum saw the danger of one large section of the volk lapsing into what Gustav Preller, one of their spokesmen, called 'an ignorant, uncaring proletariat while another part was leaning to English'.[103] Like their counterparts in the Western Cape, Preller and other intellectuals in the North believed English could be countered only by Afrikaans. But Afrikaans should be promoted as a professional, 'civilized', white man's language, with a proper body of literature. Occupationally these men were often insecure. As teachers, they faced a distinct trend towards anglicization in the schools; as clergy they were painfully aware of the loss of members of their congregations as a result of poverty and proletarianization; and as writers they saw the market being flooded by English newspapers and cheap English novels. This educated stratum had an overriding interest in creating Afrikaners who would refill Afrikaner churches, attend Afrikaner schools and buy Afrikaans books.[104]

This was a massive task. A prominent part was played by the Doppers of Potchefstroom. Deriving their theories from the Dutch neo-Calvinists, they built 'Christian National' schools and disseminated the message that the Afrikaners were a unique people whose strength lay in isolation with freedom to practise apartheid with respect to both the English and the Africans.[105] The Doppers, however, represented only one strand. The principal cultural entrepreneurs were the journalists and writers who, in newspapers and journals such as Die Brandwag and Die Huisgenoot, presented Afrikaner history as a heroic epic and tried to redefine almost every aspect of everyday life in Afrikaner terms. This message found a particular resonance among women and in the family context.[106]

When the National Party was founded in 1913, the educated stratum was the first of the disaffected groups that flocked to the banner of Hertzog. The intellectuals sought allies amongst the Dutch-Afrikaner workers but found that they were a difficult class to mobilize by ethnic appeals, which failed to meet their material demands for employment and relief. A recent study concludes that the workers were unwilling to try on 'the yoke of a nationalist dominated labour movement'.[107] The Dutch-Afrikaner workers only turned away from the English-dominated Labour Party after they had been shunned persistently by the formal trade union movement.

The poor farmers were another group that proved hard to mobilize. Botha and Smuts represented the gentry classes of farmers who just before and just after the war bought out large numbers of the poorer farmers and pushed many bywoners


off the land. Many small farmers became alienated from the rich landholders. One spoke in 1905 of 'these selfish, self-righteous blood-suckers. . . . Even our great generals who make such grand speeches, oppress the poor in private and enrich themselves from the impoverished'.[108] After the National Party was formed the rural poor gradually rallied behind its banner, particularly after the Rebellion of 1914–1915. The National Party's open identification with the rebels persuaded the poor that the party might challenge not only imperialism but also the entire capitalist order. The rural poor were equally attracted to the explicit racism of the National Party, believing that only a tough policy towards blacks would solve their acute labour problems. After a tour of the Transvaal rural districts in 1921, Smuts noted that 'the landless "by-woner " is very definitely attaching himself to the Nationalist cause'.[109] Accused by the exclusive nationalists of being traitors because of their pro-British stance during World War I, Botha and Smuts bitterly responded that those who accused them were 'hendsoppers' and 'joiners' in the Anglo-Boer War.

Building an Afrikaner ethnic consciousness that could assert itself as a decisive political force remained a long-term project requiring hard ideological work by politicians and cultural entrepreneurs. Before the day was won, class interests had to be redefined as ethnic interests and the invention and popularization of an Afrikaner national culture had to proceed much further. It is clear, however, that the Rebellion of 1914–15 was a crucial event which allowed the National Party to unite the anti-imperialist and anti-(British) capitalist strands in Dutch-Afrikaner history and present them as the main thrust of the new ethnic ideology.

It was also in the aftermath of the Rebellion that the most powerful of the churches, the DRC, really began to rally behind the ethnic movement and ideology. At a special conference of DRC clergy in 1915 the church did not censure the rebels (as the government would have wanted). Instead it accepted Malan's view that the church had a distinct calling with respect to the 'Dutch-speaking' population group and consequently had the duty to be 'national' and maintain 'national interests'. 1[110] Andrew Murray, champion of the once-dominant church tradition of Evangelism with its universalistic message, was deeply troubled, but he sensed that it was impossible to stem the nationalist tide.[111] In the general election held at the end of 1915 Hertzog's National Party made a net gain of 15 seats country-wide. The astute politician John X. Merriman noted gloomily that only the richer and older Afrikaners still supported Botha and Smuts.[112] An exclusively defined ethnic consciousness was passing them by as a political force.


This chapter has argued that the construction of an Afrikaner political ethnicity must be sought in broad economic and social processes and not merely in the realm of cultural innovations. At the heart of such economic and social changes lay the attempts first to define the group of Afrikaans-speakers exclusively and then mobilize them for political and economic goals. This process took different courses in the Western Cape and the Transvaal.

In the Stellenbosch-Paarl region of the Western Cape, with its history of a rigid slave system, political mobilization of the Afrikaners excluded coloured Afrikaans-speakers but initially attempted to incorporate non-jingoistic English-speaking whites. Conflicting political and economic interests together with imperialist aggression widened the gulf between Dutch-Afrikaners and English-speakers. For a complex of reasons Dutch-Afrikaner farmers were drawn


to local financial institutions which in time became ethnic institutions. By the turn of the twentieth century an Afrikaner ethnic establishment, comprised of farmers, teachers and professionals, had arisen who had the funds and the motivation to launch specifically ethnic projects such as the Nasionale Pers, the National Party, and the University of Stellenbosch. While Afrikaners and coloureds lived in close proximity to each other and while both spoke what was basically the same language, political and economic forces drove them apart. Indeed, to counter the anglicization of the upper class, the Afrikaans language was appropriated in the first two decades of the twentieth century as the ethnic language of which every Afrikaner should be proud. This stood in stark contrast to the late nineteenth century when in towns like Bloemfontein and Cape Town leading Dutch-Afrikaners shunned Afrikaans, spoke English in public and generally conducted their correspondence with other Dutch-Afrikaners in English, or, in some isolated cases, in High Dutch. J.H.H. de Waal, one of the main protagonists of Afrikaans, later remarked that by the turn of the century only the (coloured) Muslim community was loyal to Afrikaans in the Cape Town area. When Du Toit made an about-turn after the Jameson Raid and became a supporter of Rhodes, Afrikaans suffered a great setback for he had become identified with the language. At the end of the Anglo-Boer War, De Waal noted, 'Our language as a written medium was almost completely dead.'[113]

In the Transvaal and the Orange Free State the Anglo-Boer War shattered the political institutions on which local Afrikaner political ethnicity had been built. Ethnic entrepreneurs now had to assume the task of what a recent analysis has called 'building a nation from words'. The architects came from a fairly isolated educated stratum and had to invest hard ideological labour to persuade the lower class—workers and poor farmers—and also those of more affluent classes to see their political destiny in common Afrikaner terms. It was a task not yet completed by World War II, and perhaps only in the early 1960s when a republican form of government was in place and apartheid imposed on almost all levels of society was it achieved. Twenty years later, in the early 1980s, Afrikaner political unity was shattered. As happened a century ago, one group emphasizes Afrikaner political and cultural exclusivity while, perhaps, the majority is beginning to move hesitantly towards a self-concept in which ethnic claims are becoming subordinate to class identifications.

previous chapter
1— The Beginnings of Afrikaner Ethnic Consciousness, 1850–1915
next chapter