Report on General J.B.M. Hertzog’s Speech at De Wildt , 7 December 1912

[Extract from speech at De Wildt, as reported in The Star, 7 December 1912].

General Hertzog addressed a meeting at De Wildt Halt, on the Rustenburg line, today. In regard to the question of national development of languages, he said, a small storm had broken over his head, but he did not mind these storms so much so long as he achieved his object. He did not agree with the opinion that the task was an ungrateful one, because there never had been a question on which the Dutch people had been so unanimous as on the language, and he had enjoyed the greatest support not only from Dutch-speaking South Africans but also from English-speaking South Africans. The language question, however, was only part of the great question of South African nationalism.

A storm had been caused by what he had said at Nylstroom, where he had stated that the day had come when the South African spirit would come to the top, and that that spirit would declare itself unwilling any longer to have South Africa ruled by those people who were not imbued with the proper South African spirit. People had expressed indignation at that because it would exclude from the Government those people who were not South Africans.

He stood by what he had said at Nylstroom; if they wished to see South Africa ruled in the interests of the country it should be ruled by people imbued with the South African spirit. He understood the report of Sir Thomas Smartt's reply to this to mean that he (Sir Thomas) was in the first place an Imperialist and in the second place a South African. If that was Sir Thomas Smartt's meaning it had fully proved that he (General Hertzog) had been right in what he had said that Sir Thomas Smartt was not a true Africander.

Imperialism was important to him (General Hertzog) only when it was useful to South Africa, to its land, and to its people, and when it was not serviceable he had respect for it from a distance, but as a South African he had little to do with it, and when it was contrary to the interests of South Africa and the interests of the people of the country then he was a distinct enemy of Imperialism. "I am prepared," General Hertzog continued, " to let my future as a politician depend on that. That is my feeling, and by that I stand. Imperialism is important to me when it is in the interests of South Africa, and when any question of that kind is to be dealt with, then it will always be my duty to ask myself: Is the solution of this question in the interests of South Africa? And if it is to the detriment of the country then it is my duty to have nothing to do with it."

In regard to a contribution to the Navy, he said it had been stated they were not prepared to fulfil their obligations, but he knew that wherever South Africa was concerned the people were always prepared to fulfil their obligations to protect their interests. They had not allowed themselves to be led away by what they had seen in the papers and by what was said from political platforms for political purposes. If they had done so they would perhaps already have given 20 or 30 Dreadnoughts to the Imperial Government. The Government felt that when the country's affairs had to be dealt with they should not allow themselves to be influenced for sentiment or jealousy. Because the Malay States had given one Dreadnought it was ridiculous to say that South Africa must also give one. It was the Government's duty to consider everything carefully in the interests of South Africa, and for that reason they had so far refrained from all this sentiment, but when the time came South Africa would be ready to do its share for the protection of its own interests in the first place and of the Empire's interests in the second place.

All this noise had been started by a few thousand of interested people in the first instance; that was not simply his opinion, but if they read a book by Hobbs and others they would see what really lay behind the shout of "Empire, Empire". The great capitalists were interested in it, and they started it, and then the matter was taken up by those in this country who had political interests. They tried to raise a feeling with the object of keeping Dutch and English-speaking Africanders apart. Most of those people were hard put to it to get recruits for their political party, and every month they got something fresh to widen the breach which they considered should exist between Dutch and English-speaking people, and those were the people who said: "Hertzog is busy preaching racialism." That is simply because they wished to see racialism exist, and if they could get him (General Hertzog) to preach it, then he would be of the greatest assistance to them. He repeated what he had said at Nylstroom that to an Africander Africa comes first, and as Africanders they should in the first place be governed by Africanders. If that was racialism then he was prepared to go to any part of South Africa to preach that doctrine.

General Hertzog proceeded to urge the necessity for the creation of a South African nationalism. He was not one of those who always believed in protesting his loyality. People, eventually, did not believe those who kept on doing so. As regarded conciliation he had nothing to conciliate, as he had not done any harm to anyone. He felt that it was his right and duty to urge the importance of South African nationalism to the Dutch-speaking people, and if ever the day came when he enjoyed as much confidence on the part of the English-speaking population as he did from the Dutch then he would also preach his doctrine to them. He was sometimes misunderstood, but these misunderstandings would pass and the day would come when they would all realise they were Africanders aiming to achieve the same object.

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