J. A. Hobson 1900

To the Editor of “Clarion”

Written: by J. A. Hobson; First published: in The Clarion, 14 April 1900;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford, for marxists.org 2008.

Sir, – May I make one or two brief remarks upon Mr. Bland’s reply to my article on “The Settlement in South Africa."? His knowledge of the matter he discusses may be gauged by reference to two statements he makes. “At the time the war broke out the British numbered 120,000, the Boers 80,000.” Mr. Bland must be aware that he has no warrant whatever for a statement which is on the face of it absurd. The only authoritative basis for computing the Boer population is the burgher list, which in 1897 contained 29,270 names, and which last year was believed to contain about 85,000 names. If, however, we take the lower figure as comprising the entire male population over 16 years of age, and suppose the same proportion between ages and sexes to subsist in the Transvaal as in Great Britain, we arrive at a total Beer population of about 125,000. Most of Mr. Bland’s Jingo friends reckon that the Transvaal Boers have put at least 30,000 in the field, and if this be true, the Boer population must be considerably larger than the above named figure. Just as little warrant has Mr. Bland for giving 120,000 as the British population. I have in my book taken this figure as expressing the ‘general opinion’ but it is based upon no statistics, and is probably excessive.

The second statement is this: “No sooner had their victorious horsemen crossed the frontiers than they formally annexed by proclamation large portions of Her Majesty’s dominions.” Is it possible that Mr. Bland does not know that the rumour of annexation communicated by Sir A. Milner to our Government upon the strength of mere hearsay has some time ago been admitted, by the High Commissioner himself to be false?

When a writer is so ignorant as Mr. Bland of the elements of the subject on which he writes, what is the value to be set upon his expression of belief in the “Dutch conspiracy” and his bold assertion that “there is not room for dubiety in any fair mind that for years they had been prodding at Africander opinion, and stirring up disloyalty in every sort of underground way, with a view to preparing trouble for our country"?

If Mr Bland is not any better informed about the state of feeling among French Canadians than about the facts in South Africa. The carefully faked-up “loyalty” of French Canadians which figures in our Jingo press has been managed for the very use Mr. Bland makes of it: it entirely misrepresents the real sentiments of the French Canadians. Race animosity in Canada is unfortunately very far removed from “quiescence”; it is growing into dangerous force, as will soon appear.

The spirit of fairness with which Mr. Bland approaches his discussion is illustrated by one of his concluding sentences in which, referring to the 1884 Convention, he says: “Thank God it was pounded to pulp by the guns which bombarded Ladysmith and the women’s laager at Mafeking.” If by this remark Mr. Bland implies that the Boers are ascertained to have purposely directed their guns at the women’s laager, I do not hesitate to give him the lie direct. He is simply reproducing the vile calumnies of the Jingo press, to which he appears to have confined his reading.

Finally, the looseness of Mr. Bland"s thought and language is illustrated by his declaration that “in a few brief years,” “South Africa, from the Zambesi to the sea., will be settled under British liberty and British peace.” Has Mr. Bland heard of German territory south of the Zambesi, or does he think that in a few brief years we shall have conquered Germany?

What is the earthly use of a man setting out to discuss the difficult problem of settlement in South Africa with so meagre an equipment of knowledge of material facts as that of Mr. Hubert Bland?

Yours faithfully

J.A. Hobson