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Sons of the blood: the Second South African Conflict and the evolution of the British Empire.

POLITICS AFFECTS WAR, but it can be argued that war affects politics. Certainly, the Second South African Conflict (1899-1902) affected the evolution of the British Empire.

Except for the occasional small crown colony, the British Empire has largely ceased to exist. This is not, we can argue, because it failed but because it spectacularly succeeded. Enlightened people believed that Britain was performing a tutelary role in its colonies. Britain was a school for self-government and the arts of progress for the world's nations with a less fortunate heritage than itself, so that they could take their places among the independent progressive democracies of the world.

Imperialism for the white dominions was largely a form of nationalism. As Britain begun a period of relative decline and the colonies began to pass it economically and socially, It was expected that they would play a role in governing the Empire. As Canadian Prime Minister Sir Robert Laird Borden said, "It is time for the boys to take over the farm." This role was largely accentuated by "the Boer War," as this conflict became known.

The justification for the Boer War was the position of the Uitlanders in the Transvaal. These largely British settlers had been welcomed by the Afrikaner South African Republic as a workforce in the gold fields of the Witwatersrand. However, they were denied citizenship and the right to vote. When the settlers rebelled, they were repressed by the local police. When the Jamieson Raid was launched as a prelude to another Uitlanders revolt, it was also repressed. Troops were moved to the border. However, it was the S.A.R. and the Oranje Vriestaat which declared war.

However, Cecil Rhodes and the British imperialists dreamed of a British Africa stretching from the Cape to Egypt. The defeat of the Boer republics made that possible.

Canada was in a difficult position. Most British-Canadians were only a generation or two removed from the old country. They wanted to fight. French-Canadians, on the other hand, refused to see any Canadian militia units committed to Britain's foreign wars. Initially, Canadians were allowed to serve in the British Army in distinct Canadian units. Eventually regular Canadian militia units were involved.

Thus the role of Canada was accentuated as Britain's lieutenant within the empire. While this encouraged the foundation of French-Canadian and Afrikaner nationalism, it reconstituted the empire anew under a coalition of self-governing dominions. The example of Australia which was united in 1901, and New Zealand need to be taken into account.

As the colonies became independent, the British legacy was not rejected. Rather, it was internalized as part of these nations' self-identities. Canada is not a parliamentary democracy, a common law jurisdiction, a Tory society, an empiricist intellectual sphere, or even a monarchy because of any nostalgia for a link with Britain. All these things are part of our integral internal self-identity. This is the legacy of the British Empire and why we say it was an outstanding success.

Joseph Kenneth Malone

Charlottetown, PEI

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Title Annotation:FEEDBACK
Author:Malone, Joseph Kenneth
Publication:Esprit de Corps
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Apr 1, 2016
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