32 Old Resentments Return
From Part 4 of Grey Steel by H.C. Armstrong

BEYOND all these troubles, the parliamentary squabbles, the fighting over bills, the personal frictions, there was, however, a great storm banking up. Between the Dutch and the English the old jealousies were reviving. Their friendship after the Union had been only a brief truce. Once more they were coming to loggerheads. It could be seen in each of the old provinces. The Dutch Reformed Church supplied the impulse. The centre was in the Free State. Against it Botha and Smuts worked desperately. They pleaded for co-operation between the two white races, but the friction increased, and there were many who used it to their own private advantage.

When deciding on the membership of his Cabinet, Botha had been pressed to include James Hertzog as the representative of the Free State. He did not want Hertzog and he disliked and looked down on him. Usually good-natured, Botha when he did dislike soon hated, and then he hated with virulence. He hated Hertzog. He would have nothing to do with him.

Smuts and Hertzog were to each other as fire and water. They were so alike and yet so different, that they could never agree.

Smuts was prepared to fight a bill through the House—that was a politician's work. He made enemies but without realising it. But when it came to an open personal quarrel, as always he avoided it, unless it had some practical value. He would not let his personal feelings spoil his work. Hertzog was necessary in the Cabinet. Botha would not deal with Hertzog; so, taking a grip of himself and holding down his dislike, Smuts tried to come to terms with Hertzog. He asked Hertzog to his house, was friendly with him, and over a meal, using all persuasions, he offered him a lucrative post as a judge. Hertzog refused at once, for he had planned out a clear line of action for himself. He saw the reaction coming and the Dutch hostility to the English. He had already been asked to lead the Dutch reactionaries and replied that he would, but they must wait until the time was suitable. He decided to bide his time, quietly and secretly. He would jockey Botha and Smuts into the wrong, choose his opportunity, and come out as the champion of the Dutch.

Having failed to get Hertzog to withdraw out of politics, Smuts persuaded Botha to take him into the government as Minister of Justice.

From that moment Hertzog worked cleverly, always making it obvious that he was upholding the rights of the Dutch and implying that Botha and Smuts were selling these to the English. He did not quarrel openly, but he worked with a pleasant manner and an innocent air. A Dutch paper, Die Week, which was opposed to the Government, gave his views. The English attacked him. He retaliated fiercely and made sure that all the Dutch knew what he had done.

All through the years 1911 and 1912, while still a member of the Cabinet, he prepared his ground by working against Botha and Smuts. Botha proposed a contribution to the Imperial Navy: Hertzog told his friends it was "folly" and that the proposal had the English capitalists of the Rand behind it. Botha wished to give state aid for immigration: Hertzog called this "unpatriotic, anti-national, and a crime against South Africa." When taxed with disloyalty to the rest of the Cabinet he blandly expressed surprise.

Botha grew angry. He showed his dislike of Hertzog openly. He treated him with suspicion, ignored him, refused to confide in him. Hertzog made a grievance of this, as if Botha was the aggressor and he was a poor innocent, misunderstood.

Botha, seeing that the irritation between the Dutch and the English was being worked up into hatred again, toured the country, preaching that the two white races should merge into one stream. Hertzog judged that at last his time had come. Steyn and Merriman were encouraging him. Merriman because he was sour that he had not been made Prime Minister, and Steyn because the leadership of the Dutch had passed from him to Botha. In the party were a number of young Dutchmen from the Transvaal who opposed Botha and his policy and who had never agreed to Union: they were continually criticising him. They were led by Tielman Roos, who was clever, boisterous, and had a biting tongue. Botha treated the criticism indulgently, but Smuts resented it. At last he struck at Tielman Roos, attacked him in public and without mercy. Tielman Roos swore that he would be revenged on Smuts and let Hertzog know that he was with him.

Hertzog went a stage farther. He preached that the Dutch and English must remain two separate streams that should never merge. He began to come out into the open and attacked the English in South Africa, calling them "foreign adventurers," suggesting that they were like "dung against a kraal wall that the next fall of rain would wash away." The English newspapers demanded his resignation. An English member of the Cabinet refused to sit with him. Botha insisted that Hertzog should accept "joint cabinet responsibility" and show normal loyalty to his colleagues.

Again Smuts tried to make peace. Hertzog, he realised, was still necessary in the Government. A crisis now might smash the Union. He drafted Botha's demand in moderate terms, asking Hertzog to sign a paper that he would not make speeches on general policy without consulting with the rest of the Cabinet, and gave the draft to Fischer, who was an old friend and colleague of Hertzog. Fischer foolishly showed the original draft to Hertzog: almost rubbed his nose on it; and Hertzog, seeing it was drafted by Smuts, flew into a rage, called Smuts a lunatic, refused to sign, and proclaimed that he would not be muzzled by Smuts and his English friends.

At last Smuts realised at what Hertzog was aiming and that he could do no more. Botha was hesitating what line to take. Smuts advised him to dismiss Hertzog. Botha still hesitated. Having made up his mind Smuts was now as determined to get rid of Hertzog as before he had been earnest to keep him. Hertzog had become a danger in the Government: better be rid of him, and quickly. He pressed hard on Botha to act. Botha called a meeting of the party leaders to a committee-room in the Parliament House and asked Hertzog for an explanation. When Botha was angry he became deadly quiet. When Smuts was angry he became red in the face, but he rarely raised his voice and was exaggerated in his dignity and reserve. Hertzog had not the self-control of Botha or Smuts. He would fly up into noisy rages. As he defended himself he grew angry. His voice, always high-pitched and nasal, rose almost into a scream, so that those near the committee-room and even in the Lobby below could almost hear what he was saying.

Botha requested Hertzog to resign. He refused. By now he had recovered his temper and his bland manner, and he expressed his surprise and asked what was the cause of all the trouble. Botha dissolved his Cabinet and ejected Hertzog.

James Hertzog walked out of his office away back into the Free State. He had got what he had wanted. He could say that he had been thrown out of the Government because he had defended the rights of the Dutch people of South Africa against Botha and Smuts and their English friends.

At once de Wet girded up his loins and went up and down the country blasting Botha and Smuts, and Smuts in particular. Steyn gave all his support and proclaimed that Hertzog had been "martyred for what he had done for the Dutch," and rallied the whole of the Free State to him. Merriman encouraged them. The pastors of the Dutch Church came into the fight. They appealed to the old racial hostilities; they roused the Dutch into resentment; they revived the old hatreds, which having died down for a time, might have died altogether. They taught the people to distrust Botha as the servant of the English—had he not been made an Honorary General in the English Army and 'on his last visit to London worn silk stockings at the levee of bile King of England ?—and to despise Smuts for having sold himself to England.

The South African Party met in conference in the Hofmeyr Hall next door to the Dutch Reformed Church in the centre of Cape Town. All the leaders were there on the platform. The delegates filled the big hall to overcrowding. The delegates from the Free State sat in a body at the back.

De Wet opened the proceedings. He stood up on the platform, squat and square on his feet, pugnacious and blunt and full of resentment, boastful as ever. He demanded that Botha and Smuts should resign, that Steyn should become the leader of the Party and appoint a new Prime Minister. The Free State delegates applauded, but Botha faced them with a dignity and a majesty of presence which made all the big words of de Wet seem like cheap bluster. He repeated his faith that the future of South Africa depended on the co-operation and the union of all white men, whether they were Dutch or English. Smuts stood solidly by Botha. Then came James Hertzog, nervous, hesitant, sharp, with a quick, bird-like fluency, but so muddled in his reasoning and so poor in his speech that he was known as "James the Obscure." Persistent and pertinacious, he stuck to a few fixed ideas: he believed that all South Africa belonged to the Dutch; he hated the English, so that anything that was good for England and the English must be bad for the Dutch. In these he represented the back-veld Dutch, and especially those of the Free State. He was, moreover, determined to be Prime Minister. Now he was grey with complaint : how Botha had never wanted him in the Cabinet; how Botha had ignored him; how Botha had treated him unfairly.

De Wet's motion was put to the vote. The voting was for Botha. Hertzog and his supporters stood up, but Hertzog was no leader. As an Irish politician said of him, "There was no weight in the man." They hesitated, not knowing what to do, until de Wet strode down the hall, turned at the door to wave and call "Adieu" to those left on the platform, and the rest followed him out.

Hertzog went out of that meeting sullen and obstinate. He went practically alone and without followers, for he had miscalculated his time. Now he must work for a party. He gathered the discontented round him. From the Cape came a Dutch pastor who edited a Dutch paper, Die Burger, and had entered politics, a Dr. Malan; from the Transvaal came Tielman Roos, very resentful against Smuts. These, with Steyn and de Wet and the Dutch of the Free State behind them, formed a new party, the Nationalist Party—Dutch in outlook, republican in its aims, and hostile to England and to being united with the English. The old wound between the English and Dutch, which had almost closed and healed, had been torn open by James Hertzog and his friends, and once again Dutchman was set against Dutchman, and Dutchman against Englishmen.