The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers

Enclosure: David Lloyd George, Prime Minister, Great Britain, to General Jan Christiaan Smuts, Prime Minister, South Africa

My dear General,

You will remember that when we were in Paris two Deputations arrived from South Africa and asked to see me, one headed by General Hertzog,[2] representing the Nationalist Party in South Africa;[3] the other consisting of a Deputation of the native inhabitants of the Union.[4] I consulted General Botha[5] and he agreed that it was desirable that I should give an interview to both. The record of my interview with General Hertzog you already have, and it has been published in the Press.[6] I now write to you in regard to an interview I had with the Native Deputation. I append copies of the shorthand report of the meeting together with various documents which they submitted to me.[7] You will observe that I made it clear that the questions which they raised were within the province of the Government of the Union and Parliament of South Africa, and that the British Govern[men]t, therefore[,] can take no action in regard to them. I further pointed out to the Deputation that I had only heard their side of the case, and could, therefore, form no opinion as to the justice of their representations. At the same time I promised to communicate to you what they said, and I, therefore, attach a full report of our interview. At the same time I should like to lay before you certain impressions which were left upon my mind as a result of this interview.
The first was that these men were clearly labouring under a deep sense of injustice. They evidently felt that the existing pass system[8] operated very unjustly in a large number of cases. They were sure that some recent Land Act passed in the Union Parli[a]ment deprived the native population unjustly of its land and tended to reduce them to the position of wanderers in the country of their birth. They further were convinced that there was a larger and powerful section in South Africa who were bent on emphasising the colour line, and in preventing the education and advancement of the native population.
These were the principal grievances raised, though there are others as you will see from the record of the interview. There was, however, one other point which, I think, deserves attention. They said that in the Transvaal, the Orange Free State, and Natal, the native population had no votes and no representatives in the legislature at all, while in the Cape province a certain number of them had votes, but no direct representatives of their own. They said that they had repeatedly been told that they ought not to ventilate their grievances outside South Africa and that they ought to secure their reforms by constitutional means at home. But, they asked, what was the use of calling upon them to obey the law and observe constitutional methods in their agitation for betterment and reform if they were given no adequate constitutional means for doing so. If this is a correct statement of the facts it seems to me a very powerful point.
There is one other general consideration which occurs to me. It is clear that the dark age of Africa is commencing to pass away. The negro population of the world is beginning to stir into conscious life. It has developed many leaders of force and ability as you will realise if you have followed recent movements among the negroes of America. The negro-question, therefore, is one which affects us all, for what is done in South Africa immediately reacts outside, and what happens outside similarly has its effect in South Africa. We shall, therefore, watch with sympathy and interest the steps which the Government and Parliament of South Africa make in endeavouring to find a satisfactory solution of this difficult question.
Finally, I would like to suggest that you should, yourself, have an interview with this Deputation on its return to South Africa.[9] I was greatly impressed by the ability shown by the speakers. They presented their case with moderation, with evident sincerity, and with power. It is evident that you have in Africa men who can speak for native opinion and make themselves felt, not only within their country, but outside. I am sure you will be impressed by them, and I am equally sure that you will be able to remove the impression which seems to rest there at present, that they cannot get people in authority to listen to them with sympathy. Ever Sincerely,
[D. Lloyd George]
PRO, CO 537/1197, file 1486. TL, carbon copy.
[1] On the original document, the date of 6 January 1920 was crossed out and replaced with the date of 3 March 1920, which appears to have been the date of dispatch.
[2] Gen. James Barry Munnick Hertzog (1866–1942), Afrikaner political leader, was born in Cape Province and raised near Kimberley. Trained as a lawyer, Hertzog gained prominence as a military leader during the South African War, when he opposed a negotiated settlement with the British. His political activities in the Orange Free State focused on Afrikaner self-government and led to his role in founding the National party. He was named prime minister in 1924, and remained in that post until 1939, working to achieve his policy of segregating Africans. While Hertzog had been actively involved in "native" affairs since 1912, his position on land for indigenous South Africans was perhaps most clearly stated in the policy he outlined as premier in 1925. He proposed that Africans have their own defined territories, in which they would remain unless engaged in labor for the white population. He added that if there was not enough land for the African people, additional land must be purchased for them by the state (C. M. van den Heever, General J. B. M. Hertzog [Johannesburg: A.P.B. Bookstore, 1946], p. 229; DAHB).
[3] On 5 June 1919 Lloyd George met with a delegation of the South African National party in Paris while attending the Versailles Peace Conference. The delegation, led by General James Hertzog, discussed its claim for the restitution of national status for the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, the status they enjoyed before the South African War (Times [London], 6 and 11 June 1919).
[4] The Union of South Africa was officially formed in May 1910. It comprised Cape Colony, Natal, Orange River Colony (Orange Free State), and the Transvaal as provinces under a two-chamber parliament. Administrators of each province were appointed by the Union government (EWH).
[5] Louis Botha (1862–1919), South African general and politician, was commander in chief of the Boer army in the South African War and became the first prime minister of the Transvaal in 1907. When the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910, Botha became prime minister, an office which he held until 1919. In World War I, Botha conquered German South West Africa in 1914–1915, and in 1919 he, along with Jan Smuts, represented South Africa at the Paris Peace Conference (CBD; WBD).
[6] Following his meeting with the deputation headed by Hertzog, Lloyd George issued a reply, published in the Times (London) on 11 June, rejecting Hertzog's demand for restitution of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. He stated that the British Government "could not agree to any action which means the disruption of the Union. . . . To do otherwise would ruin South Africa." In dismissing Hertzog's case, Lloyd George added, "I would advise your people with all the earnestness at my command not to endeavour to undo the past, but to look forward confidently to the great future which lies before a united South Africa" (Times [London], 11 June 1919).
[7] The only surviving document in the file is headed "Summary of Statements by the South African Delegation." It encompasses the various grievances raised by the delegation in the course of the formal interview, covering such matters as the franchise, civil service, taxation and education, and the regulatory system of the pass laws. The statement also contained submissions by the delegation covering various discriminatory laws enacted by the Defence Force Act (1911), Native Land Act (1913), Native Affairs Administration Bill (1917), and Native Urban Areas Bill (1918) (PRO, CO 537/1197).
[8] Initially passes (short for passports) were carried only by men, first by Cape slaves as early as 1709, indicating their right to be in a certain area. By the end of the century the practice was extended to include Khoikhoi farm laborers, establishing their relationship to a particular farm. These provisions were codified in 1809, but by 1828 free "coloured" laborers were no longer required to carry passes, owing to humanitarian pressure brought to bear upon the British administration. Pass requirements became increasingly rigid, however, with the discovery of diamonds in the 1870s; arrests and harassment escalated, and imprisonment for pass violations became more common. Africans protested the imposition of passes; in 1913, for example, Orange Free State women resisted the application of pass laws to them. Both women and men in the Transvaal mounted a widespread passive resistance campaign in 1919; they were, however, unsuccessful, and the Native Affairs Act of 1920 and the Urban Areas Act of 1923 extended and codified the imposition of the pass system (HDSA).
[9] A search of the Times for the year 1920 yielded no evidence that Smuts met with the SANNC deputation, or with any delegation of black South Africans. In fact, Smuts appeared irritated by Lloyd George's letter. In a reply dated 12 May 1920, Smuts claimed that the SANNC was not a representative organization, and that its demands were "more specious than true, and largely amount to suggestio falsi" (quoted in Brian Willan, Sol Plaatje: South African Nationalist, 1876 – 1932 [Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984], p. 245).