8 Turns Against Rhodes
From Jan Smuts' Rise To Fame Part 1 of Grey Steel by H.C. Armstrong

VERY soon he found that he disliked Johannesburg—and its inhabitants. He had nothing in common with it—or with them. Though now grown into a town, it was still a mining camp: shabby; dusty, the discomfort of little water, tents, wooden shacks, corrugated-iron huts mixed in with new brick buildings, the indecent smudges of the dumps on which nothing would grow, where the mines threw out like offal the rock that they did not need, the bestial slums of the workers. On one side were some plantations of young gum trees which had been planted by the mine magnates. In the rest, not a garden nor a tree nor a piece of green to rest the eye, a dingy ants' nest of a place lying obscenely, rump in air, along a ridge bleak and desolate, six thousand feet above sea-level, in the middle of the vast treeless veld of the Transvaal—Africa, harsh and materialist as it had been since the dawn of time.

And the people, the native labourers in the mines, the white workers, and the rich men, the mine magnates—all adventuring. Smuts cared nothing for money except for enough to give him necessities and the opportunity to work, but these men thought of, dreamed of, fought for, nothing but money: money in hard diamonds or in gold, money in vast, fabulous, fantastic quantities. Stumbling in their haste, rushing one against the other, pushing each other aside, the weakest down to be trodden out, they worked and strove and cheated for money, crooks and lesser crooks and adventurers all in one mass. A wild, feverish life, uproar and rush, gambling, continuous rattle and strain of high pressure, dirt, fighting, drunkenness, the many nationalities, the fierce passions made keener and fiercer by the air of the high ridge, the vicious evil life, full of quarrels, fights, and of litigation. It was a place for a young, eager barrister, if he had the right mentality—but Smuts had not got that mentality.

Brought up on the farm, near quiet, shady Riebeek West, and in the peace of the rich, rolling downs of the Zwartland, where every farmer, being related to his neighbour, stood by him in time of stress, and where there was no crushing and treading down of the weakest and no feverish rush: trained under the great oaks at Stellenbosch and in the silent, cool library at Christ's College, Cambridge; and then back to work in the pleasant life of Cape Town, he was appalled at Johannesburg. He was used to books, to study, and deep thought on great subjects, and here there was none; only rush and scramble and straining, belching effort: effort without reason: effort not for ideas or the things that mattered, but for cash. He was ambitious. He had tasted his first blood in public success in Cape Town, in politics. He was eager to get on, to succeed, but not for the things for which these people cheated and fought each other.

He began to practise, but with even less success than in Cape Town, for whereas there a good manner was a primary asset, here a man must be even more free and easy, hail-fellow-well-met, drink, gamble, go to the horse-races, mix well, or he had no chance; and Smuts did none of these things. Of the unfriendly virtues he had many. Of the vices that are companionable he had none. He did not drink or smoke tobacco. For light women he had no time. Horse-racing, lounging in bars, gambling, he looked on as sinful or even worse—as wasters of his time. The freedom of manner he had begun to develop under the influence of Rhodes reacted back into reserved selfcentredness. Having once laid himself open and been hurt, he became even more stand-offish and self-protective. He was again a studious, awkward, stiff, unlovable fellow. He made no friends and he found no work.

To make both ends meet he continued to write articles for the newspapers and he coached students for their law examinations, but this work only depressed him. He became sunk in depression. Full of suppressed energy, as restless as a hyena pacing up and down, aching to put his whole self into some real work, he could find no work, or even an opening for work. "We do not seem," said the Law Journal, in commenting on his transfer to Johannesburg, "to have heard anything lately of Advocate J. C. Smuts."

With depression he became morose, ill-natured, a man with a grievance. He either sat in his office, his nose deep in textbooks, or he stalked about the streets of this town which he disliked and despised, a lanky, weedy, cadaverous, hollowcheeked young man, with short, stubbly hair, a pale face, and ill-natured angry eyes, either staring ahead or keeping them on the ground and ignoring the people he met. As a barrister he was a failure and resentful at his failure not understanding why some cheerful, hail-fellow-well-met young rival with half his brain was always full of briefs and work and he went idle.

With little work at the Bar, he looked round, and once more decided that politics and not the law was his métier. He moved slowly at first, for he found the Dutch suspicious of him as one of the Bondmen from the Cape, one of Rhodes' supporters. He went to Pretoria to see how the land lay and decided that his future lay with Paul Kruger and the Dutch, who were against the English.

Before the Raid by Jameson a majority of the Dutch, even of the Transvaal, had half sympathised with the Uitlanders. It would be wiser, they had considered, to treat them with justice, and compromise with their demands, than to refuse to listen to them. Kruger's obsession against the English; his fear that the English Government meant to annex the Transvaal; his persistent insulting of the Dutch of the Cape; his policy of isolation; had been the follies of an old man. If he retired it would be easy, they had thought, for the Dutch and English to work together.

The Raid, the plotting of the Uitlanders, and above all the treachery of Rhodes, changed all that. Every Dutchman had come hurrying to back Kruger. He had been right, they said: the English had plotted to seize the Transvaal. The old antagonism between English and Dutch had flared up and swept across South Africa like a veld fire. The Dutch were ready to fight for their independence. The Free State under Steyn renewed its alliance with the Transvaal. The Dutch of the Cape, the Bondmen, sent promises of help, of arms and ammunition, and money. Kruger's old war-cry, "Out with the English! All South Africa for the Dutch! Africa for the Afrilcander!" became the watchword of every Dutchman.

Smuts, though he had not got on either with the undergraduates at Cambridge or the English in Cape Town, had no inherent dislike of the English, but now his personal interests and his feelings made him hostile to everything English. He determined to stand in with Kruger and to tear out of his own mind, and out of the minds of his acquaintances, every trace of his support of Rhodes, of his hero-worship of Rhodes.

Having decided on his line, he swept from one loyalty to the other extreme with an energy which mounted up into a fury of bitterness. He became more hostile to the English than the staunchest of Kruger's supporters. He attacked the English, but especially Rhodes, fiercely and on all occasions. "It is the English who have aroused the national hatreds. They have set the veld on fire," he preached. Rhodes was a monster and unforgivable. No Dutchman ought to have any truck with him.

He wrote bitter articles in the newspapers. He contradicted all he had said at Kimberley before the Raid and much of what he had written in Cape Town: Rhodes was crooked, he never meant to unite the Dutch and the English; he was bent on making South Africa all English. He spoke of Rhodes' " double elasticity of conscience," of his "treacherous duplicity." A few of the Cape Dutch still supported Rhodes: he cursed them as traitors to their blood. Afrikaans, their home tongue, he said, was the language they should all learn, and not English.

Up and down the country he went, raging and cursing, speaking at meetings in the Paarl and in villages round Stellenbosch. Old Jacobus Smuts was distressed to find his son so fierce and uncompromising, for he still wished to live in peace and fellowship with the English, but he took the chair when Jan spoke in Malmesbury. His father's attitude made no difference to Jan Smuts: he toured down to Philadelphia, close to Cape Town, and up across the Transvaal, speaking in towns and villages, cursing Rhodes and cursing the English.

In the middle of all this he decided to get married. The Dutch favoured early—and fertile—marriages. Once decided, he would not wait. He would marry at once. He sent word to Miss Krige, took the train to Stellenbosch, arrived at five o'clock in the morning, when none of the family, except the girl, expected him, and at top speed obtained a licence and persuaded the Rev. Murray, an old friend and tutor at the college, to marry him in the front room of the Kriges' house, and set off almost in one breath back to Johannesburg with his wife.

At this time he needed courage and belief in himself. The girl gave him both, and she could rouse him out of his depressions. When he needed advice, she showed him with cool judgment where his interests lay. She was capable and clear-headed, and had she not married would have made an excellent schoolteacher. With the tradition of her family, she consistently and passionately, with an active personal hostility, hated the English. She agreed that his future lay with the Dutch and he must stand in with the Dutch; and she kept his new-found hatred of the English at fever heat.

He returned to his writing and speaking with renewed industry and he began to make a name for himself. He kept in touch with Hofmeyr and Schreiner, who wished to keep contacts with the Transvaal. As well as speaking against the English and the Uitlanders, he also spoke against the Hollanders.

Kruger, who had little belief in the business capacity of the local-born Dutchmen, had engaged men from Holland. Several of these held important posts both in the State departments of the Transvaal and in the Government itself: the Hollanders, they were commonly called.

Smuts attacked the employment of the Hollanders. He criticised Kruger. There were, he said, many local-born Dutchmen, Afrikanders, quite capable and sufficiently educated to run any of the State departments or to be members of the Cabinet: the Hollanders ought to be sent home and replaced by young local Dutchmen, young Afrikanders. Kruger also kept round him many old men as his advisers. Smuts was very contemptuous of the old men: they also, he said, should be replaced by young men.

Soon he became identified with a policy and was one of the leaders of a Young Afrikander Movement, which pledged itself to work for the retirement of the old men and the ejection of the Hollanders and the employment of young Afrikanders.

But these efforts did not bring him legal work, nor money on which to live; and, though never without money, the first months of his marriage were lean and full of difficulties. He had a house in a poor suburb and lived quietly. Two children were born and died and then a third. He had heavy expenses all round and little coming in, and even fewer prospects —when suddenly, and unexpectedly, came his chance, and, with both hands, he seized it.