Smuts decided to go away for a while and tour in England and North America. "I wish," he said, "to investigate for myself and see what is the matter there." He was not well. He was weary of the drab routine and the ineffectiveness of being continually in opposition. A change would do him good.
His tour was a triumphant progress. He was greeted in England with affection as well as applause and respect. He stayed as the guest of the King at Sandringham, delivered the Rhodes Memorial Lectures at Oxford and was made an Honorary D.C.L. of the University, visited Cambridge and spoke on Livingstone to large audiences in Edinburgh and Glasgow. In Canada and in the United States he was treated with equal respect. He lectured to many League of Nations societies, was received by President Hoover at the White House, and granted the singular honour of being allowed on the floor of the Senate and shaking hands with the senators as they filed past him.
He sailed for South Africa to find the Parliament discussing a Bill to restrict the immigration of Jews. He fought the Bill and was met with fanatical hatred. He was about to return to England, and his opponents asked if he intended, on this trip, to become the ruler of Palestine, and the ribald shouted after him: "Hail! King of the Jews."
His book,Holism and Evolutio, had gained him a reputation amongst scientists as a philosopher-scientist. On arrival in England he presided at the Centenary Meeting of the British Association, held in York and in London. Five thousand of the leading scientists of the world attended "This," he said, "is the crowning honour of my life." His opening speech was received with applause and every meeting he addressed was crowded. He was loaded with honours, scrolls, degrees, and decorations.
The English public and the English politicians listened to his advice with bated breath. He told them, not about South Africa, but how to handle the problems of Europe, how to save Germany and Civilisation. He lectured them on how to make the League of Nations a success, how to keep World Peace, how to deal with the Mandate for Palestine and the Jews, and how to settle with Ireland and India. When some politicians reminded him that he had failed to handle the Indians and the natives in South Africa, they were looked at sideways. To doubt the wisdom of Smuts, even to speak lightly about him, became almost akin to blasphemy.
He left for South Africa firmly established as an Elder Statesman of England.
In South Africa he found all changed. Everything was going wrong for Hertzog. Partly this was ill-fortune, for there had been another severe drought followed by a plague of locusts, which had ruined great numbers of farmers, and the farmers were the staunchest supporters of the Government. But it was also largely the fault of Hertzog himself. England had come off gold. Other countries had changed their financial policies and done the same. Havenga, Hertzog's Minister of Finance, kept South Africa on gold, and Hertzog backed him.
The results were disastrous. South Africa could sell nothing abroad. Her exports dropped by twelve million pounds and began to stop altogether. There was no ready cash in the country and no credit or confidence, and many bankruptcies. The Free State was itself unable to meet its debts. The mines were badly hit, and Johannesburg was almost ruined. The depression had become so acute that the dullest clerk in a counting-house could see that the country was going bankrupt, but Havenga still held steadily on. The experts round him advised him to make no change. He was sure that to come off gold would be disastrous, and he believed that to do so voluntarily was grossly dishonest. Hertzog was as ignorant of finance as Havenga and so could not help him.
Smuts saw his chance and attacked the Government for not rooting out malpractices in the offices of the State, for bribery and nepotism, and for encouraging favouritism these had become a public scandal, he said, and the country was weary of them. He used the old criticisms which Hertzog had used against him in 1924, the stagnation of trade and agriculture, the deficit in the budget, the rising taxes, and the increased unemployment. The only solution, he said, and one he would use at once if he came back into power, was to follow England and come off the gold standard.
Hertzog refused to listen. He would not be tied to the tail of England. South Africa would stand four square and alone on her own feet. To go off gold was both foolish and dishonest, and Smuts ought to be ashamed of himself for making so dishonest a proposal.
The slump became worse until it was a crisis, and from one end of South Africa to the other people were complaining. There was a by-election at Germiston which had always stood by Hertzog. Smuts sent down a young candidate as a try-out. He won the seat. The word went round that Hertzog was coming to an end. Smuts warned his party to prepare for a general election.
Suddenly, down from the Free State like a whirlwind, came Tielman Roos. Three years as a judge in the Supreme Court of Appeal had bored him with the tameness of the life. He wished to be made Chief Justice, and Hertzog refused to appoint him. Excited and annoyed, he burst out with some speeches on politics and criticised Hertzog, who quickly told him that, as a judge, he must keep out of politics. Tielman Roos resigned, stripped off his robes as a judge, and, disregarding the protests of his doctor, he dashed back into politics, shouting that he had come to save South Africa, and that South Africa must at once, under his guidance, without a minute's hesitation or delay, come off gold.
Tielman Roos was a novelty. He was liked. He had a flare for personal publicity, together with bounding vitality and energy. His whirlwind methods attracted attention. Crowds came flocking to him. He tried to combine with Smuts, said that twenty-four of the members of the House who sat behind Hertzog had promised to join him, that he could throw Hertzog out of power. But Smuts, though pressed by many of his own party, refused. He was not going to be tied up with this mercurial, haphazard, unreliable fellow, especially as Tielman Roos wanted everything, to be Prime Minister, and to nominate half the Cabinet; and he could not show any proofs that he could carry out his boasts.
But Tielman Roos had frightened Hertzog, and he made Havenga, still grumbling in disagreement, come off gold. At once there came prosperity, tremendous, unprecedented, prosperity. Tielman Roos was wanted no more. He was of no more value. The crowds, now busy making money, forgot him. Confused and complaining a very little, a dying man after his fierce effort, he sagged and disappeared; but he had shaken Hertzog and ripped his party from top to bottom.
Smuts saw that victory was near. Cape Town, all the coast towns with their hinterlands, and most of the Cape Province were with him. Natal and every Englishman in South Africa would vote for him, together with Johannesburg, financiers, shopkeepers, and workers alike. Prosperity had returned. They remembered that it was Hertzog and his minister of finance, with their folly and ignorance, who had all but ruined them and that Smuts had been for months demanding that South Africa should come off gold.
Hertzog's supporters were in the Interior, the farmers of the veld of the Transvaal and of the Free State, but many of these, after the drought and the depression, were against him.
Hertzog himself was losing heart. He felt insecure. He did not know how many of his party, and even of his cabinet colleagues, were loyal to him. They were constantly criticising him. The party was full of complaints and he was not strong enough or leader enough to hold them together. He sent word by roundabout methods that if Smuts made an offer of coalition he would accept it.
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