M.T. Steyn is sworn in as president of the Orange Free State

M.T. Steyn Image source

Wednesday, 4 March 1896

The Republic of the Orange Free State went to elections after the resignation of President F.W. Reitz in 1895 for reasons of health. Marthinus Theunis Steyn, also a judge of the High Court like his predecessor, was elected as next president by 6877 votes to 1367 in favour of his opponent, J.G. Fraser. Fraser was opposed to closer co-operation with the Transvaal Republic and favoured closer links with the Cape Colony and Britain, while Steyn supported the proposition made by the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR or Transvaal Republic) to merge the two republics to form a federal union.

The inauguration ceremony, conducted by the Rev. H.T. Kriel, was attended by a great crowd and took place at the Dutch Reformed Church in Bloemfontein. Steyn, who was not yet forty years of age, was a charismatic leader. He desperately tried to avoid war between the Transvaal Republic and Britain. During negotiations he advised Transvaal to accede to British demands, but at last realised that Transvaal could give in no further without endangering the independence of the republic. Once war was declared on 11 October 1899, the Free State joined Transvaal in the struggle for freedom.

    References:
    • Muller, C.F.J. (ed)(1981). Five Hundred years: a history of South Africa; 3rd rev. ed., Pretoria: Academica, p. 254.
    • Potgieter, D.J. et al. (eds)(1970). Standard Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa, Cape Town: NASOU, v. 10, pp 285-286

    Last updated : 27-Feb-2017

    This article was produced by South African History Online on 16-Mar-2011

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