Jan Hendrick Hofmeyr
Jan Hendrik (‘Onze Jan’) Hofmeyr (1845 - 1909) was a prominent Cape politician and newspaper editor. Hofmeyr was educated at the South African College and he began his career as a journalist, first editing the Volksvriend, then an amalgamated paper called the Zuid Afrikaan, and then eventually Ons Land. In 1879 he entered the Cape parliament as member for Stellenbosch, but his true political significance lay in his leadership of the Afrikaner Bond. The Bond was established in the Cape in 1880 to oppose British imperial influence and promote South Africa-wide Boer interests. From 1883 it was under the control of Hofmeyr, who had a more conciliatory approach. Until the mid 1890s the Bond exerted political influence chiefly by entering into alliances with politicians who would promote its concerns. It later gained direct political power in the Cape parliament. While Hofmeyr spent much of the early 1890s backing Rhodes, he withdrew the Bond’s support in the aftermath of the Jameson Raid and subsequently backed Will Schreiner to become Prime Minister in 1898.
Hofmeyr worked hard as a negotiator to prevent the outbreak of the South African War in 1899, trying on the one hand to get Kruger to agree to concessions regarding the uitlander franchise issue, and on the other hand to placate Milner. It is in this context that Schreiner’s single extant letter to Hofmeyr was written. This letter is a fascinating one, concerned with the then-immanent South African War, a polemical pamphlet Schreiner had written and its translation and expansion in further publications. It also has pencilled on it Hofmeyr’s response in the form of notes for his secretary, which clearly indicate the perceived importance of Schreiner’s support for the Republican cause.
For further information see:
T.H.R. Davenport (1966) The Afrikaner Bond London and Cape Town: Oxford University Press
J. H. Hofmeyr and F. W. Reitz (1913) The Life of Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr (Onze Jan) Cape Town: Van de Sandt De Villiers Printing Co.
Liz Stanley & Helen Dampier (2012, in press) “‘I just express my views & leave them to work’: Olive Schreiner as a feminist protagonist in a masculine political landscape with figures & letters” Gender & History
Mordecai Tamarkin (1996) Cecil Rhodes and the Cape Afrikaners: The Imperial Colossus and the Colonial Parish Pump London: Cass