"We thought Milner was our new George Grey" Read the full letter
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Letter ReferenceSmuts A1/186/78
ArchiveNational Archives Repository, Pretoria
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter DateJune 1899
Address From2 Primrose Terrace, Berea, Johannesburg, Transvaal
Address To
Who ToJan Smuts
Other VersionsRive 1987: 352-3
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
The Project is grateful to the National Archives Repository, Pretoria, for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Special Collections. The month and year have been written on this letter in an unknown hand. Schreiner was resident in Johannesburg from December 1898 to late August 1899.
1 Strictly Private
3 Dear Mr Smuts,
5 1) Do you think there would be any use in my going to see Sir Alfred
? I have letters of introduction to him, & many of my dearest
7friends in England are his. & In a letter of his, which I saw
8the other day he said that one of the things he had most looked
9forward to in coming to South Africa was seeing me, &c. If I could
10have an hours conversation alone with him I feel there are one or two
11points I might make clear to him. I should especially dwell on the
12nature of the resistance England has to expect if she tries to crush
13South Africa. I could also explain to him that the mass of
14Johannesburgers are increasingly against war. There are many English
15men here who five years ago would have fought the Transvaal Government
16who would now like to shoot the Leaguers for making trouble. Even in
17the last six months the tone here has changed very much
. If I do go of
18course if I do go
to Bloemfontein to meet him, I shall be most careful,
19 not to mention to anyone that I am going there with the intention of
20meeting him
, as those about him would prevent my doing so. If you
21think there might be use in my trying to see him at Bloemfontein,
22could you give me a free railway pass for the journey? If you think
23there would be no advantage in my going let me know.
25 2) If the anniversary of Gladstone’s birthday or death day is near,
26would it not be well for the president to grant any concessions he has
27to make on that day, connecting them with Gladstones memory, sending
28home wires to Mrs Gladstone & the family, & if possible, making the
29day a public holiday in Pretoria & Johannesburg? This would be felt
30very deeply by the Liberal party at home, which is not dead though out
31of power for the moment. What we have to convince England of is that
32we are not to be coerced, but that we are not unmindful of any
33sympathy & justice which she has shown or can show us. I do not know
34whether this idea is work-able: the effect would be exceedingly good
35if it were. We cannot win the capitalists to our side; we can win the
36mass the thinking English people in England & Johannesburg.
38 3) Doubtless you know that the Leaguers boast that they have bought
39traitors in the Johannesburg fort, who will betray it to them in time
40of war. If war should break out would it not be well at the last
to send new men there who cannot have been bribed. There were
42twelve apostles; but one sold his master for thirty pieces of silver.
44 Don’t trouble to answer this unless you think there would be any use
45in my going to Bloemfontein to see Milner. I know how busy you are.
47 Yours sincerely
48 Olive Schreiner
50 ^Of course you know Mul Myburg and the Leaguers here are most anxious
51the franchise should not be granted.^
Rive's (1987) version of this letter has been misdated and is also in a number of respects incorrect.