Lord Alfred Milner, British Colonial Secretary, and architect of the Union of South Africa dies

Lord Alfred Milner Image source

Wednesday, 13 May 1925

Lord Alfred Milner, a career diplomat in the British Foreign Office in the late 19th century and early 20th century died in Canterbury, England. Milner came to South Africa in 1902 to preside over the transition to the Union of South Africa that became a reality in 1910. Milner arrived in South Africa soon after the South African War of 1899 to 1902 (also referred to as the Anglo- Boer War). His mission was to reconcile the British and the Afrikaner and ensure that they would cooperate in establishing a unified state with a single government.

This became a delicate issue to resolve. The Afrikaner, though defeated in the war, felt that they were not completely vanquished. The terms of surrender that they proposed envisaged their republics remaining independent of British control after the formation of Union. Milner arrived at a compromise.

The Transvaal and Orange Free State were allowed to have responsible government in 1906, in preparation for a national election to be held in 1910.  

Milner’s administration played a critical role in shaping the constitution of the envisaged Union of South Africa even before it was passed into an act of parliament. The Union of South Africa Bill was completed in 1909 and sent to England to be discussed in the British Parliament. The Bill provided for the establishment of a unitary state that would exclude blacks (Africans, Coloureds and Indians) from the political process. Despite vociferous opposition from blacks the Bill was passed, becoming the Union South Africa Act of 1910. Soon after Milner returned to England and was replaced by Lord Gladstone as British Governor.

• Ascherson, N.(2012), “The War that made South Africa”, New York Review of Books, [online]  available at: www.nybooks.com [Accessed on 7 May 2012]
• Britannica Alfred Milner, Viscount Milner [online] Available at: www.britannica.com [Accessed on 7 May 2012]

Last updated : 12-May-2017

This article was produced by South African History Online on 09-May-2012

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