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Frederic Hugh Page Creswell (1866 - 1948) was born in Gibraltar but went on to become an important South African politician and leader of the South African Labour Party. He trained as a mining engineer and migrated to South Africa in 1893, where he became involved in both the railway and mining industries. He fought for the British during the South African War and afterwards became a mine manager at Johannesburg, where the labour problems he encountered, particularly in the post-war period, began to arouse his interest in politics. Creswell favoured, to put it no stronger, white labour as the solution to South Africa’s labour problems and indeed “became the champion of the white labourer” (Niewoudt 1968: 187). As Schreiner commented to Will Schreiner in 1912, for Creswell, “the place for the Kaffir is his Kraal”. Creswell opposed the importation of Chinese labour to South Africa for similar reasons. In 1910 he represented the seat of Jeppe in the first Union parliament, and that same year became a member of the South African Labour Party. Creswell was arrested and imprisoned for a month for his support of the miners’ strikes of 1913 and 1914. He reacted strongly against Smuts’ suppression of the strike and began to develop a political alliance with J.M.B. (Barry) Hertzog, leader of the emergent Nationalist and retrograde National Party. This alliance eventually culminated in the formation of the Pact government in 1924 in which Creswell’s Labour Party formed an election pact with Hertzog’s Nationalists to oppose the South African Party. In the resulting government, Creswell became minister of labour and defence. In 1933 the coalition between Hertzog and Smuts ended Creswell’s ministerial career.
For further information see:
Margaret Creswell (1956) An Epoch of the Political History of South Africa in the Life of Frederic Hugh Page Creswell Cape Town: A.A. Balkema
C.F. Niewoudt (1968) ‘Creswell, Frederic Hugh’ in (ed) W.J. de Kock Dictionary of South African Biography Vol I Pretoria: National Council for Social Research, pp. 187 - 189
David Tickton (1973) The Origins of the South African Labour Party 1888 - 1910 Cape Town: University of Cape Town
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