Proclamation. — By His Excellency Sir Theophilus Shepstone, Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George, Her Majesty’s Special Commissioner for certain purposes in South Africa.

Whereas at a meeting held on the sixteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifty-two, at the Sand River, between Her Majesty’s Assistant Commissioners, Major Hogge and C. M. Owen, Esq., on the one part, and a deputation from the emigrant farmers then residing north of the Vaal River, at the head of which was Commandant-General A. W. J. Pretorius, on the other part, the said Her Majesty’s Assistant Commissioners did “guarantee in the fullest manner on the part of the British Government to the emigrant farmers north of the Vaal River the right to manage their own affairs, and to govern themselves according to their own laws, without any interference on the part of the

British Government”:

And whereas the evident objects and inciting motives of the Assistant Commissioners in granting such guarantee or permission to persons who were Her Majesty’s subjects, were “to promote peace, free trade and friendly intercourse” with and among the inhabitants of the Transvaal, in the hope and belief that the territory which a few years afterwards, namely, in February 1858, became known by the style and title of “The South African Republic,” would become a flourishing and self-sustaining State, a source of strength and security to neighbouring European communities, and a point from which Christianity and civilisation might rapidly spread towards Central Africa:

And whereas the hopes and expectations upon which this mutual compact was reasonably and honourably founded have been disappointed, and the circumstances as set forth more at length in my Address to the people, of to-day’s date, hereunto attached, show that increasing weakness in the State itself on the one side and more than corresponding growth of real strength and confidence among the native tribes on the other, have produced their natural and inevitable consequences, as will more fully appear from a brief allusion to the facts that, after more or less of irritating contact with aboriginal tribes to the north, there commenced about the year 1867 gradual abandonment to the natives in that direction of territory settled by burghers of this State, in well-built towns and villages, and on granted farms; that this was succeeded by the extinction of all effective rule over extensive tracts of country included within the boundaries of the State, and as a consequence of the practical independence, which still continues, of large native tribes residing therein who had until then considered themselves subjects:

That some few farmers, unwilling to forfeit homes which they had created for their families, and to which they held grants from the Government of the Transvaal, which grant had, however, ceased, and still fail to protect them in their occupation, made terms with the native chiefs, and now occupy their farms on conditions of periodical payments to those chiefs, notwithstanding the acknowledgment which such payments involve:

That this decay of power and ebb of authority in the north is being followed by similar processes in the south under yet more dangerous circumstances, people of this State residing in that direction having been compelled within the last three months at the bidding of native chiefs, and at a moment’s notice, to leave their farms and homes, their standing crops, some of which were ready for reaping, and other property, all to be taken possession of by natives, but that the Government is more powerless than ever to vindicate its assumed rights, or to resist the declension that is threatening its existence. That all confidence in its stability once felt by surrounding and distant European communities has been withdrawn. That commerce is well-nigh destroyed. That the country is in a state of bankruptcy. That the white inhabitants, discontented with their condition, are divided into factions. That the Government has fallen into helpless paralysis from causes which it has been and is unable to control or counteract. And that the prospect of the election of a new President, so far from allaying the general anxiety, or from inspiring hope in the future, is looked forward to by all parties as most likely to result in civil war, with its attendant anarchy and bloodshed.

That the condition above described affords strong temptation to neighbouring native powers, who are known to be anxious and ready to do so, to make attacks and inroads upon the state, which from its weakness it cannot repel, and from which it has hitherto been saved by the restraining influence of the British Government, exercised from Natal by Her Majesty’s representative in that colony, in the hope, yet unfulfilled, that a friendly understanding might be arrived at between the Government of the Transvaal and the complaining native chiefs:

That the Sicocoeni war, which would have produced but little effect upon a healthy constitution, has not only proved suddenly fatal to the resources and reputation of the Republic, but has shown itself to be a culminating point in the history of South Africa, in that a Makatee or Basuto tribe, unwarlike, and of no account in Zulu estimation, successfully withstood the strength of the state, and disclosed for the first time to the native tribes outside the Republic, from the Zambesi to the Cape, the great change that had taken place in the relative strength of the white and the black races. That this disclosure at once shook the prestige of the white man in South Africa, and placed every European community in peril. That this common danger has caused universal anxiety, has given to all concerned the right to investigate its causes, and to protect themselves from its consequences, and has imposed the duty upon those who have the power to shield enfeebled civilisation from the encroachments of barbarism and inhumanity:

And whereas the inherent weakness of this Government and state, from causes above alluded to, and briefly set forth, and the fact that the past policy of the Republic has not only failed to conciliate the friendship and goodwill, but has forfeited the respect of the overwhelming native populations within and beyond its boundaries, which together probably exceed one and a half million, render it certain that the Transvaal will be the first to suffer from the consequences of a pressure that has already reduced its political life to so feeble a condition:

And whereas the ravaging of an adjoining friendly state by warlike savage tribes cannot for a moment be contemplated by Her Majesty’s Government without the most earnest and painful solicitude, both on account of the miseries which such an event must inflict upon the inhabitants of the Transvaal, and because of the peril and insecurity to which it would expose Her Majesty’s possessions and subjects in South Africa, and seeing that the circumstances of the case have, from the inherent weakness of the country already touched upon, become so grave that neither this country nor the British colonies in South Africa can be saved from the most calamitous circumstances except by the extension over this state of Her Majesty’s authority and protection, by means of which alone oneness of purpose and action can be secured, and a fair prospect of peace and prosperity in the future be established:

And whereas I have been satisfied by numerous addresses, memorials, and letters which I have received, and by the abundant assurances which personal intercourse has given me, that a large proportion of the inhabitants of the Transvaal see in a clearer and stronger light than I am able to describe them, the urgency and imminence of the circumstances by which they are surrounded, the ruined condition of the country, and the absence within it of any element capable of rescuing it from its depressed and afflicted state, and therefore earnestly desire the establishment within and over it of Her Majesty’s authority and rule; and whereas the Government has been unable to point out or devise any means by which the country can save itself, and as a consequence relieve the other white communities of South Africa from the danger of the dire events, certain speedily to result from the circumstances by which it is surrounded, and can entertain no reasonable hope that it possesses, or is likely under its present form of government to possess, the means to raise itself to a safe and prosperous condition:

And whereas the emergency seems to me to be such as to render it necessary, in order to secure the peace and safety of the Transvaal territory as well as the peace and safety of Her Majesty’s Colonies and of Her Majesty’s subjects elsewhere, that the said Transvaal territory should provisionally, and pending the announcement of Her Majesty’s pleasure, be administered in Her Majesty’s name and on her behalf:

Now, therefore, I do in virtue of the power and authority conferred upon me by Her Majesty’s Royal Commission, dated at Balmoral, the fifth day of October 1876, and published herewith, and in accordance with instructions conveyed to me thereby and otherwise, proclaim and make known that from and after the publication hereof the territory heretofore known as the South African Republic, as now measured and bounded, subject, however, to such local modifications as may hereafter appear necessary, and as may be approved of by Her Majesty, shall be and shall be taken to be British territory; and I hereby call upon and require the inhabitants of the Transvaal, of every class and degree, and all Her Majesty’s subjects in South Africa, to take notice of this my Proclamation and to guide themselves accordingly:

And I hereby further proclaim and declare that I shall hold responsible all such persons who in the Transvaal shall venture opposition, armed or otherwise, to Her Majesty’s authority hereby proclaimed, or who shall by seditious and inflammatory language or exhortations or otherwise incite or encourage others to offer such opposition, or who shall injure, harass, disturb, or molest others because they may not think with them on political matters; and I do warn all such that upon conviction of any of the above offences they will be liable to the severe penalties which the law in such cases ordains; and I hereby appeal to and call upon the orderly, right-thinking, and peace-loving people of the Transvaal to be aiding and supporting Her Majesty’s authority:

And I proclaim further that all legal courts of justice now in existence for the trial of criminal or civil cases or questions are hereby continued and kept in full force and effect, and that all decrees, judgments and sentences, rules and orders lawfully made or issued, or to be made and issued by such courts shall be as good and valid as if this Proclamation had not been published; all civil obligations, all suits and actions, civil, penal, criminal, or mixed, and all criminal acts here committed which may have been incurred, commenced, done, or committed before the publication of this Proclamation, but which are not fully tried and determined, may be tried and determined by any such lawful courts or by such others as it may be found hereafter necessary to establish for that purpose:

And I further proclaim and make known that the Transvaal will remain a separate Government, with its own laws and legislature, and that it is the wish of Her Most Gracious Majesty that it shall enjoy the fullest legislative privileges compatible with the circumstances of the country and the intelligence of its people. That arrangements will be made by which the Dutch language will practically be as much the official language as the English; all laws, proclamations, and Government notices will be published in the Dutch language; in the Legislative Assembly members may, as they do now, use either language; and in the courts of law the same may be done at the option of suitors to a cause. The laws now in force in the state will be retained until altered by competent legislative authority.

Equal justice is guaranteed to the persons and property of both white and coloured; but the adoption of this principle does not and should not involve the granting of equal civil rights, such as the exercise of the right of voting by savages, or their becoming members of a Legislative Body, or their being entitled to other civil privileges which are incompatible with their uncivilised condition.

The native tribes living within the jurisdiction and under the protection of the Government must be taught due obedience to the paramount authority, and be made to contribute their fair share towards the support of the state that protects them.

All private bona fide rights to property, guaranteed by the existing laws of the country and sanctioned by them, will be respected.

All officers now serving the Government, and who may be able and willing to serve under the altered circumstances of the country, shall be entitled to retain their positions, and such rights as their positions now give them.

All bona fide concessions and contacts with Governments, companies, or individuals, by which the state is now bound, will be honourably maintained and respected, and the payment of the debts of the state must be provided for.

The appointments of licenses, in virtue of which attorneys, land surveyors, and others are entitled to practise their callings, shall be respected in accordance with the terms and conditions of such appointments or licenses.


Given under my hand and seal at Pretoria, in the South African Republic, this twelfth day of April in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and seventy-seven.

T. Shepstone, Her Majesty’s Special Commissioner.

By command of His Excellency,

M. Osborn, Secretary.