The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas, et Prevalebit. THURSDAY, MARCH, 3, 1881. The Boer Rebellion.
TOWN EDITION. [lssued at 5 p.m.]
Africa seems to be a theatre of war in which, upon the progress of the British arms, “ unmerciful disaster Follows fast and follows faster.” The recollection of the Zulu campaign is still green in our memories, and it will be some time before Isandula is forgotten or Rorke’s Drift drops into oblivion—whether we think of the defeats sustained on the one hand or the grandeur of our soldiers’ behavior on the other. The Zulu trouble has been wiped out and is done with, but it was at the cost of many noble lives—lost, too, in a struggle with a barbarous foe. We may calk that foe barbarous, if we will; the Zulus were certainly savages, but in their savagery they displayed a fighting ability, and a possession of all the qualities requisite in a true warrior, and that go to make an army, abreast of the times in civilisation and in civilisation’s arts of war, almost invincible. We are guilty of no treason to our country when we say that, considering the advantages of arms, training, and discipline that ranged on the side of our troops, the Zulu fought a noble battle, and when he went down —as he must before the splendid superiority of nineteenth century weapons and warfare —he went down with honor and with glory. He was a savage, to be sure, but he was no mean soldier. Scarcely is he down, when a neighbor of his rises up in rebellion, and our fellowcountrymen at the Cape find themselves engaged in another warfare. This time the foe is the Basuto ; and he, too, takes all the attention of the colonists of the Cape, aided by such Imperial troops as are available. At his hands the puisasnce of the British arms have been put to the test, and he can “ notch on his gunstock,” if he will, no mean record of victories. He has not yet reached his fate, supression
—the fate that met the Zulu, and which inevitably awaits the Basuto ; but soon his time must come. While the crack of the Cape rifles resounds against the native Basutos, and while the colonists’ whole attention is devoted to quelling their turbulence, a rebellion arises in quite another quarter of the same portion of her Majesty’s dominions. This time, however, the foe is no untutored savage—nowielder of the primitive but terrible assegai; no shield-carrying spear-thrower. Our enemy this time is a race of men of our own color, and hailing from a country coeval with out own, and with no obscure history. The Boers now in ravolt in the Transvaal have been long discontented, with British rule. Their disaffection is not a thing of yesterday, nor has their revolt come without warning. For two years past they have evinced unmistakeable signs of being possessed of a determination to cast off, if possible, the rule of the British. On the subject of 1 heir disaffection, Dr W. H. Russell, the famous war correspondent of the Times and other leading London journals, gave fair warning. He told of large meetings having been held, inflammatory speeches delivered, and resolutions breathing treason and sedition passed ; he spoke of warning that had been given to Englishmen not to persevere in their attempt to annex the Boers’ country, nor to venture on the properties and farms of the Dutch settlers. Dr Russell goes on to state that the recent proclamation of the republic at Heidelberg was in accoidwith a resolution arrived at a year ago at Wonderfontein. “ It is,”’ he adds, “ nonsense to talk about this rising being the work of ‘a few agitators.’ It is as national as the Boers can make it—an expression of anger and dislike to the British rule—and ‘ the are driven by the masses behind them.” As to the policy of the Government, he thinks it “ deplorable that if they were determined to keep the 'l'ransvaal by force, and at all hazards, and to govern it by martial law, they did not maintain such a force there as would have convinced the Boers of the hopelessness of armed resistance.” It is thus shown that the difficulties in the Transvaal have been long looming in the distance ; but the Imperial Governments, whether favoring a “ spirited” or a spiritless foreign policy, have been strangely supine. Knowing —as they must—that this rebellion was brewing, the steps to meet it have been of the shortest and most tardy; and now that the Boer army is in the field there is only a handful of men ready to meet them, and this handful of a kind wholly incompatible with the sort of warfare to be carried on. Sir George Colley—peace to his ashes —was not the ablest officer that could have been placed in charge of the campaign, and it was matter of surprise to many when he was found in the position of Com-mander-in-Chief, with one of the best military men of Great Britain second in command. Sir George Colley, however, was considered sufficient for the occasion by those who have the allocation of commands; and with a view, we presume, to keep him straight, gallant Sir Evelyn Wood was sent to be his right hand man. But to the support of the army thus officered there were no contingents of cavalry to fight a foe whose native ele ment is in the saddle, and whose training in African warfare has been gained in actual combat for centuries of intermittent skirmishing with the natives. We can easily understand how the devoted band of men under General Colley, led by men not thoroughly acquainted with the minute geography of the country —the vanguard of a line of communication not easily maintained—but ill-supplied with ammunition for a sustained fight—and their movements and progress away from their supports carefully watched by vigilant Boer “ uhlans ” —we can easily understand these men encountering in the first break of daylight a solid force of mounted (as much soldiers as they are husbandrrien), and succumbing to numbers and to a larger supply of powder and bullets. The cablegrams give us to understand that the British troops fought as long as their store of ammunition lasted, and only gave in when resistance was suicide. It was a reverse that must be a point scored to the Boers, and we have to admit, when we consider the surroundings, that it was no mean act of generalship on the part of those or him who controlled and regulated the successful movement. Telegrams, of the 16th of last month, led us to believe that the Boers were suing for peace; but no clear indication of how their proposals had sped had reached us before we heard of the Spitskop disaster, and we are left to the more than surmise, that, in expectation of the negotiations falling through, Joubert the leader had spread out in an easily and readily closed cordon his troops of peasant soldiers, and so soon as his opportunity came he struck; and with avhat fearful effect we know. Had the same warnings of ferment been given in Ireland, as were given by the Boers, an hour or so after the first symptoms would have found the British transport ships crossing St. George’s Channel in dense fleets, but it was only when the urgency of the Boer trouble could no longer be denied that troops were sent in large bodies to the Transvaal. Joubert knew these bodies would soon be poured into his country, and with this knowledge impelling him, he struck the swift blow that gave into his hands the Spitskop 600, and cost our country a general’s life. , Amply will Sir George Colley be avengnged. His death makes room for Sir Evelyn Wood, and will, no doubt hurry up reinforcements of every arm from England—none can be spared from the struggle with the Basutos but it will teach Great Britain that a few companies of British troops are not enough to keep in awe a whole race of. men, inflamed with the recollection of a century of old grievances, of which a hatred of the Englishman and his rule has been born ? How many costly reverses must our armies bear at tjie hands of overwhelming numbers before Great Britain learns that the lives of her men are more valuable than to be put forth as a sort of bait to attract the foe, and supply an incentive for deep and bitter revenge. No intention of this cold blooded nature is entertained by the War Office; but the conduct of the authorities has J>een of a piece with their conduct in the Transvaal ever since the fatal
Crimean campaign, where more men died from official blundering than from the bullets of the Muscovite foe.