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Barry Hertzog

James Barry Munnik Hertzog (1866 - 1942) was a Boer general and South African politician. He studied at Stellenbosch, where he was influenced by the so-called ‘First language movement’ which during the 1880s campaigned for the recognition of Dutch as an official language of the Cape Colony, and then for spoken Afrikaans to gain the status of a written language. Hertzog then studied law at the University of Amsterdam and in 1893 set up a legal practice at Pretoria. He married Wilhelmina Neethling in 1894, and in 1895 he was appointed a judge on the Orange Free State bench.

During the 1899-1902 South African War Hertzog served as legal advisor to the commandant in command of the OFS forces. Later in 1900 he was appointed a combat general by President Steyn, and in 1902 he was one of the signatories of the Treaty of Vereeniging at the end of the war. Post-war Hertzog was increasingly drawn into politics, where he was concerned in particular with opposing the anglicisation of South Africa promoted by Milner, and especially with the protection of Dutch and later Afrikaans language rights. When the OFS achieved responsible government in 1907, Hertzog became attorney-general and minister of education. In government Hertzog promoted what he termed his ‘two streams’ policy regarding English and Afrikaans language and culture (with African languages invisible). After 1910 Hertzog came into increasing conflict with Botha and Smuts, which eventually resulted in his angry departure from the South African Party and formation of the National Party in 1914.

Hertzog was Prime Minister of South Africa between 1924 and 1939, initially on the basis of a coalition agreement with the Labour Party, and then after 1934 as head of the United Party government, following the fusion of the South African Party and the National Party. As Prime Minister, Hertzog piloted various racist legislation through parliament, including the Colour Bar Act in 1926 designed to protect white labour, and the momentous removal of black people from the Cape voters’ roll in 1936. When Hertzog supported South Africa’s neutrality on the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, he was replaced by the United Party with Smuts as Prime Minister.

Schreiner certainly met Hertzog and knew him. Her letters indicate that, apart from any other occasions, she had met Hertzog at the home of Jan and Isie Smuts, and he was a cousin of her close friend Anna Purcell. Certainly Schreiner was well aware of Hertzog’s retrograde stance on ‘race’ matters, commenting to John X. Merriman in 1912, “It would be impossible for me to tell you the depression I felt when I heard Hertzog had been appointed Minister for Native Affairs.”

For further information see:
D. W. Kruger and B.S van As (1968) ‘Hertzog, James Barry Munnik’ in (ed) W.J. de Kock Dictionary of South African Biography  Vol I Pretoria: National Council for Social Research, pp. 366 - 379
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