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Letter ReferenceJohn X. Merriman MSC 15/71/4/2
ArchiveNational Library of South Africa, Special Collections, Cape Town
Epistolary TypeLetter
Letter Date25 May 1896
Address FromThe Homestead, Kimberley, Northern Cape
Address To
Who ToJohn X. Merriman
Other VersionsRive 1987: 278-9
PermissionsPlease read before using or citing this transcription
The Project is grateful to the National Library of South Africa (NLSA), Cape Town, for kindly allowing us to transcribe this Olive Schreiner letter, which is part of its Special Collections.
1 The Homestead
2 May 25 / 96
4 Dear Mr Merriman
6 Thank you for your letter. Your speech was without any doubt the most
7brilliant & powerful that has been made in the Cape Parliament - but
8?this ^is^ not a time of day in South Africa when any speech, reason, or
9argument, counts: - it is the day of money.
11I hope, how profoundly I can hardly say, that you, Sauer & Innes will
12yet, before very long be found on one side, & in one camp.
14There are two & only two questions in South Africa, the native
15question, & the question - Shall the whole land fall into the hands of
16a knot of Capitalists. The Dutch & English question, as you have
17yourself said, is nothing - in fifty years it will not be. But the
18native question & the capitalist question ^are in^ their infancy now,
19will loom right over the land in fifty years time, & unless some
20mighty change set in, will deluge the land with blood.
22 We who hold that rank confers duties, that a course of stern
23unremitting justice is demanded from us towards the native, & that
24only in as far as we are able to raise him & bind him to ourselves
25with indissoluble bonds of sympathy & gratitude, can the future of
26South Africa be anything but an earthly Hell: - we who hold this have
27no right to let anything divide us. He that is not with us is against
28us; he that gathereth not with us scattereth abroad. How-ever great be
29our personal antipathies & our personal wrongs, there are some matters
30so great that in their light all personal divisions should fade away.
32 Neither you nor Sauer can ever ultimately work with the bond! It is
33beginning to become clear to me that if Rhodes ever comes back to
34power, it will be partly by the aid of his money, but mainly through
35the Bond; he will regain his power over the retrogressive element in
36the country by throwing the native to them to be torn in pieces.
38 For the Boers as a whole I have the the most intense personal sympathy
39& admiration. For five years in my early girl-hood I was a teacher
40among ^them^, & I know them as perhaps few, I might say, no, cultured
41Englishman in South Africa, knows them - & I love them. Their love for
42personal liberty - for themselves - is to me little short of being
43divine - but on the native question we have to fight the main body of
44them to the death for the next 20 years.
46 Yes, they have had no Job; but they have had no language in which a
47Job could express his thoughts! Has Australia had a Job or America
48even? The greatest American, Emerson, is even not quite a Job! In
49Burgers they have produced certainly the most genius-ful man South
50Africa has seen. I love the Boer - let us deal justly, generously by
51him as by the native: but let us not give one inch to his cardinal
54 Yours sincerely
55 Olive Schreiner
57 ^Will not this parliamentary inquiry be a hideous farce? I look now
58with hope only to one curious quarter - the Hollanders in the
59Transvaal! They will not give in.^
Rive's (1987) version omits part of this letter and is also in a number of respects incorrect.